Ridgeline Ranch PUD
On Monday, June 22nd the Board of County Commissioners held a 7th public hearing on the proposed Ridgeline Ranch PUD, a 64-unit PUD located on the north end of Teton Valley adjacent to the River Rim Ranch.
The Commissioners expressed concern with the construction timeline proposed by the developer, which allowed up to 4 years of leeway before construction would begin on this project. Additional concerns about road scar re-vegetation and construction impacts were also raised. Commissioner Rinaldi noted that the proposed open space for the development was split in half by two in-holdings with development potential. Through much discussion and debate, the Commissioners and the developer were able to negotiate conditions that satisfactorily addressed the timeline of construction, the phasing plan, the re-vegetation and engineering concerns. At the end of the hearing, Commissioners Young and Benedict voted to approve the project with the conditions imposed. Commissioner Rinaldi voted to deny the project based on the threat to critical habitat and wildlife of the open space design.
This PUD has over twice the density of its neighbor River Rim, and the property contains very sensitive wildlife habitat and several steep slopes of land, through which roads will need to be cut and filled. The Ridgeline project highlights the problem with approving excessive density on sensitive properties. In this case, the developer eventually pulled all of the lots out of the critical wildlife habitat. But, in order to retain the desired density: the lots will be pressed up against the property boundary, a road will be cut through a steep slope and sharp-tailed grouse habitat, a ridge-top will be removed and used to fill a gully and no meaningful open space will remain if the in-holdings are ever developed. This project took seven hearings and many conditions to be approved because the density demanded by the developer simply could not be accommodated by the characteristics of the property. Further reducing the density would have made the approval process smoother and resulted in a better result for the public as well as the developer. As more sensitive properties continue through the development process, the lesson from Ridgeline should be “less is more.”