Development Agreement Templates and Extension Criteria Adopted
The Teton County, ID Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) reached an agreement at their July 13th, 2009 work meeting on a development agreement template for county subdivisions and PUDs. In addition, the BOCC established criteria for granting time extensions for the recording of approved subdivisions and the fulfillment of development agreements.
What Are We Talking About? A development agreement is the contract between a developer and the county that sets out all aspects of a subdivision or PUD that the county has approved. Contained within that agreement is a description of the land to be developed, the number of lots and the improvements to be made to the land. In the past, there has been no model development agreement that the county could provide that would indicate what was expected to be in each development agreement. Therefore, every development agreement reviewed by the county looked different which made it extremely difficult to determine whether all the necessary elements were included in the agreement. By developing a template for future development agreements, the county will be better equipped to recognize when elements of the standard agreement are missing, altered or have been added to. That will allow decision-makers to ask more focused questions and provide developers with greater certainty and predictability in the process.
A recording extension provides a developer with more time to actually record the plat for an approved subdivision or PUD. The timeline for breaking ground and installing the subdivision infrastructure does not start until the plat is recorded. By waiting to record, developers hope to improve their timing when the project is ready for sale.
A development agreement extension provides a developer with additional time to complete the improvements they promised to make during the subdivision approval process. Every time a subdivision is approved, our ordinances require that infrastructure to serve each lot be put into place within a specific time period that the developer agrees to. All mitigations imposed as conditions for approval are also contained in the development agreement. By asking for extensions, developers hope to get more time to complete their improvements without defaulting on their agreement.
Why Should I Care? As the demand for subdivision lots and bank financing opportunities continues to decline, developers are increasingly requesting recording extensions to defer the timeline of when they must begin to put in their infrastructure, and development agreement extensions to defer their timeline for finishing their infrastructure. The county historically had no system for dealing with these extensions, nor did they have a development agreement template to help protect both the developer and the county in the event of future troubles. Because previous administrations did not require clear and comprehensive development agreements, today’s commissioners are constantly grappling with subdivisions and PUDs who are unable or unwilling to finish their projects. Because historically there has been little scrutiny of what is actually contained in development agreements, often the county is not as well protected against default by developers as they should be.
Development agreement and recording extension requests are tricky situations because some projects are almost finished or just need a little more time, whereas others simply want to hang onto their entitlements for as long as possible without exercising them. Another difficult issue arises where a project is half complete and adequate bonding is in place to finish the infrastructure. The commissioners must decide whether to grant an extension or require the developer to follow through with their commitment. The commissioners have worked very hard with the planning staff to create a process for extension requests and a development agreement template that will help protect everyone’s interests. On July 27th, 2009 the commissioners will be using this new process to consider development agreement extension requests from Huntsman Springs, and Spring Hollow Ranch – the subdivision north of Tetonia made famous by the house on the hill.
It is important for the community to support the commissioners’ efforts to reform the development agreement and extension process. Decision-makers in the county face a difficult task in reviewing projects because it is so easy to become bogged down in the details of a particular application rather than taking into account the broader development picture in the valley. The new development agreement template and extension criteria should make it easier for decision-makers to exercise common sense on questions of whether to extend the time available to a project or not. The entire community will benefit from these improvements in the process.