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Grouse Landing Approved on a Split Vote

If you thought no additional subdivisions were coming in the door – think again! With the final plat approval of Grouse Landing, a 15-lot Planned Unit Development (PUD), the number of vacant subdivision lots in the rural county will soon grow from 7,795 to 7,810. This was the fifth hearing for this controversial application, which is one of the very last development applications to get entitled under the now-notorious 2007 PUD ordinance.

We all see our county’s funds are continually stretched thin by our scattered patterns of growth throughout the rural county. The Teton County Fiscal Impact Planning System (FIPS) was adopted by the county last June as a long-range planning tool which helps project the fiscal impacts of different development patterns. The FIPS estimates the cost/benefit of a development based on the location of the property and its projected tax assessment. The FIPS projections on Grouse Landing (which were first presented to the county at preliminary plat over a year ago, and then again presented to the County Commissioners last July) estimate a $5,500+ annual operation and maintenance deficit created by this development, and a $40,000+ one-time capital improvements deficit. These costs are due to the semi-remote location of Grouse Landing, in an area that is simply expensive for the county to service. This is no big surprise; many other subdivisions have previously been approved far away from our city centers, creating a continual drain on our county services. Despite the county’s own FIPS projections, Commissioner Benedict rejected the logic that negative fiscal impacts of this development justify denial of this application.

Neighbors to this property submitted 9 letters in opposition, citing road concerns and visual impacts. With a dense configuration of 15 single-acre lots, the neighbors had requested that guesthouses not be allowed on the property. This proposed restriction was rejected, but the Board did uphold a height limitation on guesthouses instead.

With limited deliberation, the commissioners voted 2:1 to approve this project. Kathy Rinaldi voted in opposition, stating that the guesthouses on this property would essentially double the service impacts, thus doubling the fiscal deficit to the county. Note the fiscal rationale behind Rinaldi’s decision: Given the county’s current financial realities, additional subdivision developments should not be approved whose impacts outweigh their tax revenues. We cannot afford to overlook the long-term costs of growth located far away from our service centers. To achieve development patterns which do further not burden our existing taxpayers and lower our existing levels of service, the county’s approach to growth must evolve to account for the long-term costs of these subdivisions. VARD wholly supports Rinaldi’s rationale as the fiscally responsible decision here.

Click here to see development statistics for this area and to read previous meeting reports.

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