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Does history repeat itself?

Fremont County to Adopt Similar Development Codes as Teton County’s Old Ordinances

Does history repeat itself? It just might! Normally we do not report on land use issues in other counties, but Fremont County is our neighbor to the north and many landowners in Teton County own property there as well. The Fremont County Commissioners are holding a hearing to approve amendments to their subdivision ordinance which mirror the ordinance changes adopted by Teton County back in 2005 (which prompted our unprecedented, and expensive development boom-bust.) Namely, the ordinance allows for large density bonuses and reduced waterways setbacks in the farthest, most pristine regions of the county, including the areas close to Teton County such as Lamont, Drummond, Newdale, and Bitch Creek.

Here are some specific changes that the County Commissioners have made to the ordinances drafted by the Planning & Zoning Commission:

Raising rural densities: The Commissioners changed the density and open space requirements for all 3 rural zones. These zones are: Rural Base – intended to be in areas where residential development unlikely and inappropriate.  Rural Conservation – areas intended to protect agriculture, wildlife habitat, scenic views, etc, but allow some development. Rural Living – areas near existing towns or developed areas where some development would be appropriate. These are the changes:

  • Rural Base: 10 units per 100 acres is changed to 20 units per 100 acres with 25% bonus (26 units) with central sewer/water. Open space reduced from 70% down to 65%.
  • Rural Conservation: 15 units per 100 acre is changed to 30 units per 100 acres with 25% bonus (37 units) with central sewer/water. Open space reduced from 70% down to 60%. 
  • Rural Living: 35 units per 100 acres is changed to 40 units per 100 acres with 25% bonus (50 units) if central sewer/water. Open space reduced from 60% down to 50%.
  • How does this compare to Teton County's zoning and PUD ordinances?  All of these zoning densities are considerably higher than Teton County's most rural base zoning of 1 house per 20 acres. Our now-defunct (and notorious) 2005 PUD ordinance allowed density bonuses of 40-60 units per 100 acres (60-100 units with central sewer/water) and a minimum of 50% open space. Our current PUD ordinance only allows a maximum of 15 units per 100 acres (no bonus for central sewer/water) and 50% open space (70% open space for planned community PUDs). 

Reducing waterways setbacks: The Commissioners added language to allow 2-story boathouses as close as 3 feet from the high water mark on lakes and reservoirs. River and lake setbacks were reduced from 150 feet down to 75 feet.  The setback on small and intermittent streams was reduced from 100 feet down to 75 feet.

Degrading Wildlife Criteria: The scoring criteria for wildlife habitat factors was changed so a negative score is no longer possible. A negative score stops a project from going forward.  

Fiscal Impacts: As written, there is no real consideration of fiscal impacts either. As we have learned here in Teton County, far-flung growth does not pay for itself and drains our county budget. The costs and revenues of each development should be factored into the approvals process. That is the fiscally responsible approach to land use planning. 

CLICK HERE to review copies of the proposed changes on the Fremont County website.

CLICK HERE to read our comment letter. 

CLICK HERE to read our meeting report from the June 23, 2011 hearing. 

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