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Lumber salvage business operating without permits; Extension requests from Huntsman Springs and Spring Hollow

Western Heritage Timbers continues to operate outside of city and county regulations

Commissioner Rinaldi asked the planning administrator about the status of the lumber salvage business operating without the required permits. It is in the Driggs impact area, which means that it is subject to the Driggs zoning regulations — but the county has the responsibility to enforce those regulations.  This has been an ongoing problem because the county has historically taken a laissez-faire approach to enforcement.  This business has been operating since May with no permits even though it poses a health and safety threat due to the large piles of lumber in proximity to residences, with inadequate fire protection.

Planning administrator Patrick Vaile cited his belief that this business conforms to Driggs zoning – which is really an issue to be addressed on August 11th by the Driggs P&Z. Kathy Rinaldi expressed grave concern about the county’s liability and the negative precedent that was being set by allowing this lumber yard to continue to operate without any of the necessary a county approvals. Larry Young commented on the irony that the taxpayers paid for a brand-new county transfer station that has been idle since last fall because it lacked fire protection, and yet this business continues to operate with no fire district approvals.  Bob Benedict commented that he did not think the business posed a health and safety risk.  No action was decided upon at this meeting.

This is a situation where our community would benefit from clear and timely enforcement of our city and county regulations.  Otherwise we retain the ‘act first, ask permission later’ planning process’ rejected by the voters of Teton County — despite the consequences to the neighborhood at large. The time has come to simply enforce the rules.

The commissioners grapple with continuous subdivision and PUD extension requests

The market decline has prompted increasing numbers of developers to seek extensions from Teton County to enable them to hold onto their entitlements while avoiding having to spend money completing their development’s infrastructure. In response to the increase in extension requests, the commissioners have worked hard to develop a process complete with criteria for evaluating these requests. The application clearly states that only a one-time 12-month extension may be granted, and no extension shall be granted purely based on the current market decline.

Huntsman Springs extension request

Despite the 12-month extension limitation, the commissioners granted an extension until November 30, 2010 to finish the infrastructure for phases 1 and 3A of Huntsman Springs.  That date was arrived at to allow a full construction season in 2010.  The commissioners required a rigorous construction mitigation plan from Huntsman because the impacts from this project have significantly affected downtown Driggs for the past 2 years, and need to be minimized if this project is to continue for 14 more months. VARD emphasized to the commissioners that the clear and consistent approach was to simply stick with the 12-month time limit policy.

Spring Hollow –the “House on the Hill”

Citing the market decline as his only reason for requesting a 3-year extension to finish phase 2 of the this subdivision, developer Mark Gross stated that since Huntsman Springs just received a 14-month extension, he would like the same amount of time for his project. Gross also emphasized that he is nearly done with the project, and can write a check to finish the whole thing – but wants more time to ride out the market decline. He told the commission that he still needed to reseed and replace disturbed soils on the hilly property, however, there is no money budgeted in his engineering cost estimate for slope stabilization and re-vegetation. The commissioners were adamant that they would not grant an extension to Spring Hollow until the skyline issue was resolved to protect the community’s scenic vistas.

Planning administrator Patrick Vaile vehemently argued that it is a judgment call as to whether the house is truly skylines and that the house had been correctly built in the building envelope. The commissioners rejected his argument that the house does not skyline. VARD argued that there needs to be some investigative work by the planning office because at a previous work meeting, project engineer Arnold Woolstenhulme presented a survey to the commission showing that the house had been built almost entirely outside of the building envelope. The developer, Mr. Gross, argued that he should not be punished for the house being built in the wrong location.  However, the CCR’s for Spring Hollow state that the developer shall serve as the design review committee and ensure that every house is properly located in its building envelope.

If you have comments on Spring Hollow that you would like to share with the commissioners, email their administrative assistant Dawn Felchle at



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