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Driggs Centre water hookup is off the table; County to establish policy for development extension requests; Tiered fee-schedule in the works; Ryan Colyer appointed to P&Z

Driggs Centre water hookup is off the table
At the last BOCC meeting it seemed that a water agreement was eminent between Driggs Centre and the county for Driggs Centre to provide water to the transfer station.  However, County Engineer Simonet and County Attorney Spitzer did some additional research and reported to the commissioners that Driggs Centre LLC does not actually have a water right to legally service anything other than firewater to the transfer station (firewater was the original benefit that Driggs Centre had offered the county for free). They also reported that the county has its own permit for a commercial well to run the transfer station, which was obtained by Commissioner Trupp back in 2006. Spitzer and Simonet opined that the commercial well was a better option for the county because it would be significantly cheaper to install than hooking up to Driggs Centre, and would not require the county to pay usage and maintenance fees to Driggs Centre. In addition to cost, the commissioners were also concerned about having water use options to service future county development in the area. The Driggs Centre water hookup would be limited by volume and use.  

With this new information in hand, the commissioners directed Driggs Centre to hook up the county to their firewater system by February 15th, as originally agreed when Driggs Centre got their project approved last year.  

County to establish policy for development extension requests

A representative from Targhee Hills Estates requested a 12-month extension to get final plat approvals for phases 2 and 3 of their project because they were delayed by sorting out sewer easement issues and also because of the general downturn in the market.  There has been a recent wave of extension requests coming into the county in order to preserve development entitlements.  

The commissioners expressed strong reservations about granting requests purely based on the economic slowdown. The point of the 2-year time limit to get through the process was to avoid project approvals dragging on for years, and also to keep projects under the most current version of the ordinances. The commissioners also expressed frustration that the extension ordinance has no criteria by which to evaluate extension requests, which can lead to unpredictable results.

The commissioners tabled this extension request until next month, giving them time to adopt via resolution some guidelines for how these requests should be evaluated. This will ensure a fair and predictable process.    

Tiered fee-schedule in the works

Sean Moulton, representing the Villas at Wildflower, raised the issue of what the appropriate fees should be for a project that has 400 units, but only 70 lots. The county fee ordinance requires a payment of $234 “per lot/unit”. Whether you go by lots or units can make a huge difference; with regards to Mr. Moulton's client's project, this would be $93,600 if calculated by unit, and $16,380 if calculated by lot.

The county's policy has always been to go by the number of units in the project. However, this may be soon changing with the newly proposed fee structure that is up for hearing on February 12th. Nothing is finalized yet, but Planning Administrator Vaile is putting together a new fee structure that would accurately compensate the county for expenses incurred when reviewing a development project. Instead of paying the current fee of $234 per lot or unit, the new cost per lot would depend on the size of the project. Small projects tend to consume less county resources, whereas reviewing large, complicated projects is naturally more costly. The tiered fee-structure would accurately reflect these varying costs.  The commissioners directed Mr. Vaile that the new fees need to adequately fund the county's review of projects.  The planning department has historically struggled to have the funds and resources to thoroughly review development applications.

Commissioners appoint Ryan Colyer to P&Z
The county commissioners announced that they have appointed Ryan Colyer to the Planning & Zoning Commission. He will replace Patricia Nickell, who retired from P&Z to take a permanent position with the county planning office. Mr. Colyer is a Driggs resident who works for Biota Research and Consulting as a fisheries biologist. He will serve a 2-year term.

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