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Grand Targhee Expansion

May 29th Grand Targhee Expansion

Approximately 125 people attended the Wyoming County Commissioner hearing at the Alta School pertaining the Grand Targhee expansion. The proposed development entails 773 total units: 538 short term accommodation units, 187 free market units comprised of 50 single family homes, 84 townhouses, and 53 cabins. There will also be 48 employee units on the hill.

During the over two-year approval process, Grand Targhee has recognized that the expansion will have impacts at the base and surrounding wilderness area, on the community of Alta and in Teton Valley, Idaho as a whole. The applicant has been very forthcoming on identifying those impacts and addressing those impacts with mitigation. Some of the proposed mitigation plans are as follows.

Affordable housing:
— 48 on site employee housing units
— 138 units located in Teton County Idaho
— 12 two-bedroom homes in Driggs area
— 1% real estate transfer fee to Teton County, Wyoming
— $40,000 contribution to a regional affordable/workforce housing needs study (GT contributed $10,000 toward the recently completed Teton County, ID housing needs assessment study, see www.tetonvalleyadvocates.org for a copy of the study)

Transportation and Traffic Impacts:
— On site trails and pathways system
— Off site parking for 343 vehicles at a park-and-ride in Driggs
— Employee and visitor shuttle systems between the resort and park-and-ride lot
— Shuttle system service for all special events
— Paid parking subsequent to Phase III to discourage private vehicle trips
— Off-site warehouse facility to reduce truck traffic
— Pro rata payment to Teton County, WY for resurfacing Stateline Road
— Pro rata payment to Teton County, ID for resurfacing of Hastings Lane
— Annual financial contributions toward law enforcement presence on Ski Hill Road during peak travel periods through Alta, WY

Environmental and Wildlife impact mitigation:
— 305 acres of high priority habitat protected off site. These high priority sites will be identified by the Teton Regional Land Trust
— No pets (particularly dogs and cats) will be allowed on the hill to reduce pet/wildlife conflicts
— Off road vehicle prohibition
— No development in areas designated at Habitat Priority 8 or higher
— Annual contribution of 500 hours toward trail maintenance on Forest Service Land
— .5% real estate transfer fee for wildlife habitat, natural resource protection or research
— Resident Forester/Biologist
— Wildlife/vehicle collision mitigation program.
— Bear Mitigation Plan
— Waste management and recycling program
— Noxious weed prevention and control

Proposed Development Exactions:
— .8 acres for a community site that would include a 850 sq. ft. public services building and medical facility,
— $150,000 towards design, development and construction of a park in Alta, WY
— Pro rata share of capital costs to expand Teton County, ID solid waste transfer facility
— $150,000 over 10 years towards improvements to the Alta Elementary School

Nearly 30 people spoke at the hearing with comments split evenly between those in favor and those opposed to the expansion. The main concerns of those that spoke against the expansion were 1) the size of the proposed expansion, 2) traffic impacts, particularly through Alta, and 3) the effects of summer backcountry use on the surrounding wilderness area. Those that spoke in favor of the expansion all addressed the community mindedness of Grand Targhee and its owner, Geordie Gillett, and as both being important members of the community. Many addressed the importance of Grand Targhee as an economic driver in Teton Valley, ID.

After the successful 2004 land swap between Grand Targhee and the Forest Service most agree that Grand Targhee has the right to expand and develop its property. However, the burning question that the community wrestles with is how large should the expansion be and are the proposed mitigations enough. This is an incredibly complex issue considering the uniqueness of the resort’s geographic and political location  – being surrounded by wilderness, located in Teton County, WY and having most impacts on Teton County, ID.

VARD has participated in nearly all of the meetings over the past 2+ years regarding the Targhee expansion and has followed closely the changes to the proposed development. At this point we had hoped we could establish a concrete position on the resort expansion, either supportive or opposed. However, at this point we don’t feel confident that we can comprehensively justify an opposed or supportive position because we don’t believe that Teton County, WY made a thorough examination of the expansion taking into account the context of Targhee in Teton Valley (which includes the Alta and Teton County, ID communities).  

Teton County, WY has/had a unique opportunity to engage in a regional planning process that involved meaningful discussion with Teton County, ID and a proactive developer that could have more comprehensively addressed many of the concerns that have lingered throughout the approval process: resort size, wilderness/wildlife habitat, economic impacts, traffic, infrastructure, etc. Mr. Gillett has shown both his and the resort’s concern for regional issues through their actions, and under their own volition, by significant contributions to local economic vitality, affordable housing, progressive planning, waste management, etc.

Had a regional approach been taken, which we have advocated for, we believe it could have made the decision making process more fair for the developer and simpler and more thorough for the community. Possibly because of political unwillingness (either WY or ID) or the difficulty to think out-of-the-box, particularly across jurisdictions, this has not occurred and the expansion is being addressed singularly instead of as a catalyst for progressive regional planning.

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