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Links RV Park CUP Application

P&Z Has Deep Concerns Over RV Park  

What happened?

On Tuesday, February 8th, the Teton County P&Z hosted a work session to take public comment on a conditional use permit (CUP) application submitted by Bob and Sharman Wilson  (represented by Bud Surles) to construct a 1115 site RV Park at the Teton Links golf course located at 1275 N and 4000 W (this is two miles due west of Huntsman Springs, inside/abutting Woods Creek Fen.) The whole purpose of this work session was to engage the public and take comments; no final decisions were made.

Mr. Surles presented a brief summary of the proposal and emphasized that they would take the utmost care to create an environmentally sensitive resort community. The resort would actually be 115 sites (not 108). One of their biggest challenges was the sewer system – DEQ had flat-out rejected their proposal to store the effluent in tanks and truck it out the Driggs sewage treatment plant. They were looking into onsite sewage treatment options instead.

The planning staff emphasized that poor condition of 4000W was a big problem; back in 2008, a fire truck even got stuck on the road. The County Engineer reported that he would not allocate tax dollars to improve the road, but as-is, it cannot handle RV traffic. In addition to the 16 letters of opposition submitted to the county, there were 12 members of the public in attendance; a few spoke in opposition. One 45-year resident remembered the fire struck getting stuck, which almost caused a house to burn down. She emphasized the wet, sensitive location of the property and concerns over enforcement of environmental regulations. Another man spoke in opposition to the project after living next door to the property for over 20-years. As an engineer, he calculated that 120,000 gallons of sewage would be produced weekly when the resort was full. In his opinion, DEQ simply cannot approve a system for over 25 users, and that the applicant should have hired a sewage specialist by this point in time.

What did VARD say?

VARD emphasized that the idea was intriguing but the location was all wrong with conservation easements abutting to the west, flood plain troubles, and wildlife/wetlands throughout the property. It would be intriguing to take this idea and use it to “repurpose” one of our many zombie subdivisions in the valley that are in less sensitive locations. The new Comprehensive Plan process highlighted that our community cares about economic development and natural resources. The county should assess the economic value of these wetlands habitat in terms of tourist dollars, and then assess the potential profits or loss created by the RV Park. Is it a good investment for the entire community? Perhaps the application should be tabled until the new Comprehensive Plan is done.

What was P&Z’s response to all of the comments?

P&Z chairman Dave Hensel thought the proposal was interesting, but the location was “troubling.” He would not support public funds being spent on improving 4000W for this RV Park.

Ryan Colyer stated that without on-the-ground wetland specialist, there is no way of knowing if this site is large enough to accommodate 115 units. He felt that the location pitted economic development against wildlife/natural resources, which totally conflicted with the Comprehensive Plan.

Shawn Hill reported that the trip generation for this RV Park was 75 trips/acre of park –which is high. He noted that because the golf course was originally illegally installed in wetlands, P&Z needed to know the extent of habitat/wetlands that had already been filled in by the golf course.

Bruce Arnold thought it was a good concept, but the location was totally wrong. There was no way he could support the proposal. He noted there is a successful RV/golf resort in Fremont County, but it is significantly smaller and in a less-sensitive location.

Matt Eagens did not think the proposal met the statutory CUP criteria, and he shared every else’s road concerns.

Jennifer Dustin expressed frustration that county regulations had devalued everyone’s property and made it such the she cannot develop her land. In her opinion, wildlife do not pay taxes, and this is the piece of land the applicant owned and now wants to develop. She noted that pig farming would be allowed on this property, and that was a much worse use of the land than an RV Resort. Perhaps a small-scale version of the resort would be acceptable?

Darryl Johnson thought the proposal would place an undue burden on services, and the application “would set a record” for the number of special studies required just to get potentially rejected in the end because the location was too sensitive. He told Surles that “you will be very challenged” with this project.

What’s next?

It’s not entirely clear what’s next. At the end of the hearing, Mr. Surles indicated that they may still pursue their CUP application as they had already hired Nelson Engineering, a wetlands specialist from Boise, and a local biologist to work on the proposal. The consultant was going to report back to Mr. Wilson and decide their next steps. We have set up a web page where you can get more information.

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