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VARD proposes solution to fund county planning; MD fails to resubmit CUP application as required; New solid waste fees to go to public hearing; Costs of new courthouse;  County to hire compliance officer


VARD proposes P&Z fee solutions that would help fund county planning efforts.
As a follow up to the last BOCC meeting where the commissioners discussed how to implement P&Z Chairman Dave Hensel’s request to set up a technical committee to help evaluate development applications as allowed for under our ordinances and as per Clarion’s recommendations, VARD offered some solutions to the county.  VARD first praised all of the county’s planning efforts with Clarion as a priceless investment in our community’s future financial stability. It has been a long and involved process to bring the proposed PUD ordinance to this point, but should it be adopted the long-term benefits are substantial: the community finally has a way to consistently evaluate the costs and benefits of PUD applications and ensure that development will pay for itself.  It will also provide more consistent and fair means for preserving valuable natural resources.

VARD presented a memo that outlined how nearby Blaine and Madison counties have likewise spent a great deal of time and money on similar planning efforts. Both counties implement strict project application requirements, and they also collect all of their planning fees at the front end of the process when the application is first submitted. Because they collect their fees up front, these counties have the money needed to hire independent expert consultants to assist them with community planning and evaluating pending applications. They have the funding to conduct a fair and thorough review of all applications.  If Teton County collected its planning fees up front (and not at the very end of the procedure like it currently does) there would be a funding mechanism to provide this independent expert review as requested by Chairman Hensel, and as recommended by Clarion.  The county is currently processing approximately 80 applications, which is very demanding of county staffing resources, but no income is generated until the end of the process, which can take up to a couple of years. 

Once again attacking the hard-earned draft PUD ordinance, Commissioner Trupp declared his position that the entire PUD working group was a farce, saying that people who represented his viewpoint were shut out of the process. Moreover, he argued that if the county starts implementing fee structures and stringent development review like Blaine County, our valley will turn into another un-affordable elitist community. VARD pointed out that the PUD working group was a community sounding board that was used to advise (not draft) the proposed PUD, and that this structure was made very clear to the working group from the outset. Because the working group was so diverse, the proposed PUD represents a middle-ground compromise of all of those diverse opinions. It is far less stringent than other county PUD ordinances, like Blaine County’s. Counties with strict planning ordinances enjoy the benefit of this wise planning: they have better schools, roads, trails, and community amenities. Commissioners Stevenson and Young expressed great interest in changing the current fee structure so that the Teton County concept and final plat fees would essentially be reversed. This would allow the bulk of the fees to be collected up front, before the county invests so much time and money reviewing the application.  

MD Nursery fails to resubmit their CUP application as required by the county.

The county has been forced to take action against MD Nursery because they failed to resubmit their CUP application as ordered by the county over 60 days ago. MD Nursery currently has a permit to run a “garden store / nursery,” but they sell a wide variety of unrelated merchandise and operate a café. After listening to the hearing tapes from the 2005 BOCC hearing where the CUP was originally issued, the BOCC and interim Planning Administrator decided that MD ought to be cited for running a café outside of their permit requirements. An investigation by the interim Planning Administrator is currently pending to determine if MD also sells goods that are beyond their permit’s limitation to only sell goods “related to gardening.” It is sad that MD has put the county in such a position by flatly refusing to comply with county requirements and re-submit their conditional use permit application as ordered by the P&Z.  VARD believes the commissioners are doing the right thing by enforcing CUP requirements fairly and equitably.

New solid waste fees to have a public hearing.

County engineer Louis Simonet presented a memorandum proposing new solid waste fees, and sorting structures. The memo defined household vs. non-household waste, it outlined how waste must be sorted in order to warrant a cheaper tipping fee, and it proposed new tipping fees. The commissioners decided unanimously to bring these new proposals for a public hearing, which is scheduled for the evening of June 12th.

Costs of new courthouse construction discussed.

The commissioners reviewed several options for funding the construction of a new county courthouse. These bottom-line numbers are important because they help determine whether the county should sell off every parcel that was bid on at the county land auction, or instead elect to not accept certain final bids on the more valuable parcels such as the courthouse and the road & bridge sheds parcel. They are hesitant to liquidate these valuable assets at less than their assessed value.  Huntsman Springs has donated the land upon which the courthouse will be built, and they have also donated $ 1,642,432 towards construction. Under every financial scenario examined, the county will be short the total money needed for the project, but there are still ways the commissioners can reduce the overall costs of the project (and thus the balance to be financed above the Huntsman donation). In a lengthy discussion, the commissioners weighed whether it would be better to cut the overall construction costs by eliminating parking and landscaping from the project, or accept the larger amount of construction costs, but also retain the more valuable county properties.  The county is likely going to have to bond part of the costs of the courthouse.
Compliance officer position and planning administrator hiring update.

Interim Planning Administrator Laurie Grebe discussed the need for a planning enforcement/compliance officer position. Enforcement is currently one of the weakest links in the county’s chain of authority, and Grebe believes it would certainly be a full-time job. The commissioners will discuss budgeting for this position in their upcoming budget sessions. VARD also believes that code enforcement is sorely needed, and there is enough work to constitute a full-time position. On another note, the county has currently received six applications for the new planning administrator position. They will soon begin to review the applications.


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