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For the first time, Teton County vacates subdivision plats

For the first time, Teton County vacates subdivision plats

Nature of the Problem:

We all know there is a large oversupply of vacant lots in in Teton County, many of which are in incomplete subdivisions.  According to the Teton County planning department, there are currently 14 “paper plats” in Teton County, meaning that a plat has been recorded on the property, but 0% of the improvements are complete. These plats take up 681 lots.  Of these 14 plats, only 2 have a valid financial surety in place, and 3 of them have both an expired development agreement and no financing.  

There are also 3,232 platted, vacant lots located in 19 subdivisions with incomplete infrastructure; 662 of these lots have been sold.  Of these 19 incomplete subdivisions, 13 have both an expired development agreement and no financial surety. The degree to which these 19 subdivisions are incomplete varies from a few projects that are about 90% finished to some that are almost 0% finished.  

The variety amongst these 19 incomplete projects means there is no singular way forward. Some developments are so far along, they should just be finished, while others are practically paper plats that should be vacated.  As a point of reference, there are still an additional 3,910 vacant lots platted in county subdivisions with 100% complete infrastructure. As for the cities, there are approximately 1,000 vacant platted lots in Driggs and several incomplete subdivisions in both Victor and Driggs.

What Teton County Is Doing About It:

As you may recall, Teton County recently adopted a “re-platting” ordinance, which creates an incentive for the re-design of defunct or incomplete subdivisions. The county planning staff has sent formal letters to the dozens of developers with expired developments agreements, no surety, and incomplete projects. The letters give the developers a deadline to take action, and outlines several options. They can either 1) re-bond with a new surety and enter into a new development agreement with the county, 2) take advantage of the county’s incentivized re-platting ordinance to significantly scale back the scope of their projects, or 3) the county will initiate procedures to vacate the subdivision if no action is taken by the deadline.

The paper plats with an expired development agreement and no surety are seen as the “low hanging fruit” where the developer has no ability to perform on his or her obligation to complete the subdivision, and the project essentially only exists on paper. For the first time ever, Teton County has initiated the plat vacation process for the first 2 of these paper plats. By the end of this year, the development agreements for 2 more paper plats will also expire, and 6 more will expire in 2012. Thus, these hearings may be the first in a series of paper plat vacations initiated by Teton County. Here is a summary of the first 2 plats being vacated by Teton County:

  • Evergreen Grove:  Approved back in 2005 as a 5-lot subdivision on approximately 23 acres. The development agreement with Teton County is long expired, as well as the financial surety. No lots are sold, and 0% of the improvements have been completed.  This property is located at Evergreen Trail and 2000W in Victor, Idaho.
  • Warm Creek Manor: Approved back in early 2009 as a 19-lot subdivision on 60 acres. The development agreement with Teton County expired this February and there is no financial surety in place. No lots are sold, and 0% of the improvements have been completed. Also at issue is the fact that the developer was obligated to finish some road and fencing improvements with Warm Creek Estates (the developer’s adjacent, interconnected project approved back in 2006), but they are still incomplete.

So what happened at the August 9th and 11th plat vacation hearings? 

Sometimes big changes happen peacefully. With no testimony in opposition, the Planning & Zoning Commission unanimously voted at their August 9th hearing to recommend vacation of the plats for both Warm Creek Manor (19 lots) and Evergreen Grove (5 lots). Two days later, the Board of County Commissioners unanimously voted to vacate Warm Creek Manor, officially returning the 60-acre parcel back to farmland. 

The discussion over Evergreen Grove went a little differently. Because plat vacations initiated by the county have never been done before, this is an evolving process. The question of "What happens to all the other easements and stuff on the plat when you vacate it?" is a good question of law. The county must correctly navigate these legal issues. Thus, the Board of County Commissioners tabled Evergreen Grove until their September 15th hearing so they can resolve a lingering question about an easement across the property and what will happen to that easement once the plat is vacated.   

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