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Teton Valley 2020 Comprehensive Plan

Decision Makers: Teton County Planning & Zoning Commission

Topic: Teton Valley 2020 Comprehensive Plan

Teton County Planning & Zoning Commission
150 Courthouse Drive, Room 107 Driggs, Idaho 83422

RE: Comments regarding Waterways Corridor

Dear Commissioners:

At the June 19th P&Z work meeting, there was significant discussion about how to best interpret and implement the Waterways Corridor as shown on the Draft Framework Map. There were three key issues in that discussion:

1. Should the Waterways Corridor be viewed as an overlay or as a potential zone?

2. Should the area contained within the Waterways Corridor be identified as “lowest-density,” or “low-density?”

3. If the Waterways Corridor is defined as an overlay rather than a zone, should it be density-neutral with respect to the underlying zoning?

Landscape features and contours necessitate the Waterways Corridor being implemented as an overlay – not a zone.
The location of the Waterways Corridor indicates that the intent of the Sub-Committees and the Core Committee was to create a distinct Waterways Corridor with different qualities than any of the adjacent land uses described in the Draft Plan. From an administrative perspective, implementing the Committees’ vision of the Waterways Corridor as a distinct area with its own future character and land uses would be best achieved with an overlay. Zoning needs to follow parcel lines while overlays are well-suited to meandering natural boundaries. Implementing the Waterways Corridor as an overlay would be more appropriate and more fair to private landowners because an overlay can be tailored to follow the contours of the habitat and land areas that actually need to be protected, rather than burdening high and dry land areas just because they share a parcel ID# with the adjacent floodplain.

The Waterways Corridor Overlay should have the lowest residential density in the County.
The Waterways Corridor encompasses the most sensitive and important wildlife habitat in Teton Valley. The long-term health of diverse wildlife populations in Teton Valley is directly related to the long-term health of our economy. Idaho Fish & Game’s (IDFG) June 14, 2012 report highlights just how sensitive and special Teton Valley truly is:

In a comprehensive assessment of ecological values throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE), the Teton River Basin was ranked as the number one private lands conservation priority “megasite” among 43 such sites within the entire GYE for its combination of ecological irreplaceability and vulnerability.

IDFG’s comments also indicate that the lands delineated in the Waterways Corridor have the greatest conservation priority in Teton Valley. If our valley’s greatest conservation priority doesn’t deserve the lowest relative density of residential development in the county – Then what does?

In the course of the committees’ discussions of densities, the decision was made to remove any recommendations for specific densities, and instead use relative terms (highest, lowest, etc.). In order to define and implement that vision, logically there has to be an area that is the lowest density just as must be an area slated for the highest density.

When it comes time to implement the vision of the Comp Plan, the transparency and predictability of a clear instruction – “lowest residential density in the County” gives a unambiguous directive. Somewhere in the county needs to be the “lowest” density, and the Waterways Corridor should be that place.

The Waterways Corridor Overlay should not be “density-neutral”.
In order to achieve the vision of the Committees who developed the Draft Comp Plan, the Waterways Corridor Overlay should not be density neutral. By directing that the Waterways Corridor Overlay should have the lowest residential density in the County, the committees were essentially asking for a low-density zone. As discussed above however, a zone is impractical from an administrative standpoint and unfair to landowners whose land is only partially located along a protected waterway. Therefore, in order for the Overlay to accomplish the goals of a zone while remaining fair and flexible to the affected landowners, the implementation of the Overlay should call for the development of a density adjustment for the land within the Overlay. 

Thank you once again for your hard work in the service of our community.

Sincerely,

Stacey Frisk
Executive Director, Valley Advocates for Responsible Development

 

1 Page 29 of 70 in the rural land use descriptions of the Draft Comprehensive Plan. 2A Summary of Key Fish and Wildlife Resources of Low Elevation Lands in Teton County, Idaho. Prepared by the Idaho Department of Fish & Game (June 14, 2012), page 3. (Emphasis added)

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