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River Rim 2013 Re-Plat Comment Letter

Decision Makers: Teton County Planning & Zoning Commission

Topic: River Rim 2013 Re-Plat Comment Letter

May 6, 2013

Mr. Robert Ablondi

Rendezvous Engineering

25 South Gros Ventre Street

Jackson, Wyoming 83001

RE: Request for Endorsement of the May 14, 2013 River Rim Re-plat Proposal

 

Dear Mr. Ablondi:

Thank for you for the opportunity to meet and discuss VARD’s  evaluation of this 2013 re-plat proposal for River Rim Ranch.  The Teton County re-platting Ordinance (Chapter 7) was originally adopted as a tool designed to help efficiently re-structure distressed subdivisions that were seeking to materially reduce the cost and impact of their approved uses consistent with current land use regulations.  Application of Chapter 7 to a 5,400-acre resort development with over 500 residential lots, 30+ acres of commercial entitlements, dozens of property owners owning hundreds of lots (some of which are fully developed), and millions of dollars in incomplete infrastructure presents novel questions.

In VARD’s view, the changes proposed by the applicant to each of the distinct and separately approved development phases must be evaluated separately under Chapter 7 to determine whether the proposed changes represent an “increase” or a “decrease” in use or impact under the County ordinance.  We do not believe that the widely disparate sub-developments or phases within River Rim, subject to different levels of historical implementation and with distinct issues, can be lumped together.  Evaluated separately, we conclude that the changes proposed to both the South Canyon and West Rim phases represent an increase in use or impact upon the affected residents, county, and local governments.  Below we recommend restrictions and commitments that, if part of the proposed re-plat amendments, could lead both the changes proposed for the West Rim and South Canyon phases to properly be viewed as a “decrease” in use or impact for purposes of Chapter 7 of the County zoning ordinance.

To ensure that the application for amendments complies with the requirements of Chapter 7 and to qualify as a “decrease” in use and impact, VARD concludes that certain adjustments and implementing agreements need to be made to provide that (a) the golf course area which was razed and left barren since at least 2010 is addressed immediately in order to control the blight, weeds, and minimize erosion, (b) the open space originally promised as a condition to the already-received enhanced densities (the 200% housing bonus and 300% bonus of commercial uses which are normally prohibited in the Ag-20 zone) that were previously approved in Phase I of Division II will be now permanently preserved for the future through County-enforceable agreements, and (c) the South Canyon tract will be adjusted to restrict adverse impacts to wildlife and the Teton River corridor. It will also be phased in stages to mitigate the impact of the increased number of full-size lots that the applicant seeks.

In the spirit of crafting a predictable and equitable solution to this challenging problem, we ask you to agree to all of the Planning Administrator’s proposed conditions contained in the April 24, 2013 Preliminary Staff Report, except for the following 5 conditions we have proposed which differ slightly from the Planning Administrator’s conditions:

1.     Farming or restoration of the proposed golf course: Glacier Bank must bond for and fully complete either the golf course or the public parkway (grasses, trails, etc) by December 31, 2016.  In addition, we would like to see Glacier immediately implement some form of interim land management plan in order to get control over the weeds and minimize erosion.  We do not prefer one plan over the other – whether Glacier chooses to (a) farm the golf course, (b) rehab it with their 300K bond, or (c) implement the parkway plan with ponds and pathways is up to the applicant.  However, we do ask that Glacier take action immediately and fully implement any one of these three plans before December 31, 2014.  In addition, there must be ongoing  weed management plan prepared by a certified weed consultant with money bonded for weed monitoring until December 31, 2016. 

2.     Permanent Commitment to Future Phases: Glacier must record an Agreement commitment with the County, for the benefit of the public, that shall run with the land.  The Agreement will incorporate by reference the prior Master Plan, as amended, and re-affirm those provisions by which the landowners of Phases II – VI  of Division 2 expressly forgo any legal right to request or receive a housing development density that exceeds what is presented in the 2013 Revised Master Plan, and will further commit to permanently preserving, at a minimum, the open space acreage that is presented in the 2013 Revised Master Plan. This Agreement will be incorporated by reference on the face of the Master Plan.

3.     Wildlife Protections in the South Canyon Phase: This recorded Agreement commitment shall also specify that if the South Canyon Phase VI is someday developed according to the 2013 Revised Master Plan, it shall be phased with the lots closest to the Teton River being developed in the last phase.  The phasing plan must require the developer to build and finish a portion of the project before moving on to another portion. In addition to the Agreement commitment, Glacier shall also record an easement dedicating (1) a corridor as  right-of-way for wildlife ingress and egress along the northern end of the South Canyon Phase VI and also (2) a setback along the Teton River for wildlife movement along the Teton River.  The expertise of Idaho Fish & Game should be enlisted to recommend an appropriate width for both this corridor and the river setback as this question of appropriate separation distances for wildlife was not addressed in the applicant’s Wildlife Habitat Overlay and Landscape Management Assessment. This easement shall be incorporated by reference on the 2013 Master Plan and also the 2013 Amended Development Agreement. To further protect wildlife movement, prohibitions against perimeter lot fencing and unleashed dogs should be included in both the CCR’s as well as the Agreement commitment. 

4.     Roads: County Road 9400W must be bonded for and improved to county gravel standards by Dec 31, 2014. 

5.     Commercial Uses in Division II: As described in the April 25, 2013 Preliminary Staff Report by Angie Rutherford, all commercial uses outside of those directly related to the River Rim development (ie: sales office, management office, equipment storage) must be conditioned upon the completion of the golf course or parkway with only listed exceptions.[1]   The exceptions are: the existing sales office building along Highway 33 could be immediately converted to a hunting, recreation, or naturalist lodge (with dining hall and animal facilities) with no more than 10 units inside the existing building. The lodge would not be tied to the golf course, but any additional units for a lodge would need to be tied to the golf course or parkway.

If all the above conditions are agreed to in addition to the 13 conditions enumerated in Angie Rutherford’s April 25, 2013 Preliminary Staff Report, VARD will endorse this proposed re-plat as consistent with the requirements of Chapter 7 and an acceptable solution to what is an incredibly complicated problem.

Sincerely,


Stacey Frisk

Executive Director

Valley Advocates for Responsible Development

CC/: Teton County Planning & Zoning Commission


[1] We recognize that the April 25, 2013 staff report ties all incidental uses to the completion of the golf course. However, it is VARD’s position that there may be appropriate incidental uses that could accommodate the public parkway, should the landowner opt to build that instead of the golf course.


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