Two Sides, One Story
January, 12 2022
, Land Use Code
When the Planning and Zoning Commission opened the public hearing for the Land Development Code in May, each person who wanted to speak wrote their name on a list and, when called, they were given three minutes to voice their opinion: for, against, or neutral.
One of the first people to speak was a longtime local resident, Teton Valley landowner for over 31 years, and member of VARD’s board who has a unique perspective on development in mountain resort communities - having visited a family condominium in Vail, Colorado since 1968 (even though she’s only 29..:). She remembers when there were just a few buildings and services; among them, a chapel, a liquor store, a lodge, and a small grocery store.
What else could a person need?
She lived with her family in the Vail Valley for 13 years prior to moving to Driggs and in her comments she said that the development in Vail got out of control and that the same type of development frenzy COULD easily happen in our valley and in fact, it WAS happening in Teton Valley. Having seen development in the Vail Valley and in Jackson over the years, she said, “I support the land use draft, as I don’t want Teton Valley to become like Jackson.”
Shortly after, someone opposed to the draft Land Development Code rose to speak and give her three minutes of opinion. During her remarks she, too, mentioned that she did not want Teton Valley to “become like Jackson” in reference to big money coming into the Valley to develop it to the hilt.
What’s interesting is that both speakers took their respective time to say that they wanted the same thing—both love Teton Valley and neither want Teton Valley to become over-developed and/or to be “like Jackson.”
But, here’s what’s happening…
Developers are doing exactly what both speakers and community members do not want to see happen: buying up existing subdivisions, creating new subdivisions, and/or buying land that allows 2.5 acre lots and less zoning regulations before a new code is passed—and several of the developers doing this are from Jackson!!!
“Regulation” is probably no one’s favorite word, but we read “regulation” more as “respect.” The reason for the Land Development Code, the reason for land use regulations, is simply so folks know what to expect when they purchase a property and/or what to expect from the surrounding community where they live. Saying “I want this development, and I want it here, now” isn’t reality in communities.
Here’s an example..
A Jackson developer has been buying large parcels of land in Teton Valley for years intending to build homes under the current land-use code. The developer tried to develop a 200-acre property called Mountain Legends, off of State Line Road, where 97 homes were to be built with 97 septic tanks and 97 wells.. right next to Dry Creek, a wildlife sanctuary. Deer, moose, elk, owls, foxes, rabbits, cranes, hawks, bears and songbirds call that home and this development would have had a massive negative impact on what we all hold dear in this valley: wildlife.
VARD ‘helped’ the developer run into a brick wall. We held his feet to the fire. Upon VARD’s suggestion, neighbors hired the state’s top land use attorney, and, together with this attorney, VARD, the neighbors and the Planning and Zoning Commission, the developer was required to conduct and pay for a series of studies to be conducted on this property: wildlife, traffic, economic, and soil studies - all of which were valid and appropriate. Ultimately, the developer abandoned development plans.. but he didn’t stop there. He purchased an incomplete/”zombie” development called Teton Creek Resort in an attempt to do the exact same thing! Except, this time instead of 97 homes, his goal is to put double-wide manufactured homes on 2.5 acre lots calling them condominiums. This is right next to Teton Creek on a magnificent property and the developer is clearly not following original building agreements/permits that allow condominiums to be built. At VARD, we are doing everything we can - working with the county, the neighbors and the same, respected land use attorney, to once again, stop this non-compliant developer.
Many of us have good friends in Jackson and Jackson has many qualities that we all appreciate and take advantage of. Still, we don’t want Teton Valley to be developed like Jackson has been, like Vail has been, or like any other resort community. We want to make different choices. We want to do better because we know better. Just like our board member and the other speaker said during the public hearing, we want to be us - not victimized by developers pushing to jump in under the current code - attempting to maximize their profits at the expense of Teton Valley’s open spaces and wild places. On the flipside, there are also examples of outside developers not doing this. There are developers who are approaching their proposed projects responsibly. There are developers who are reaching out to VARD in efforts to choose development options that have less impact on the land and, in collaborating, we are often able to improve the quality of development and even the developer’s bottom line.
So, here we are.. two sides, one story. Two community members in a public hearing - one supporting, one opposing, the draft Land Development Code. Both in agreement. Neither want Teton Valley to turn into another mountain town casualty. Both can find common ground, reconcile differences, and come to one side, one story, for the love of Teton Valley - for the wildlife, for the open space, for our community.
The new year brings with it many challenges and development pressures. At VARD, we will remain focused and work diligently to make sure that development is done responsibly. We ask that you support us in achieving our fundraising goal of $175,000. The funding gives our small but mighty organization the opportunity to continue our mission.
In the event you’ve already pledged your support.. THANK YOU!
If you haven’t, please consider making your contribution today.
With Much Love and Gratitude,
Niki, Anna, Emily & the VARD Board
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