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Event rules to face vote

By Kevin Huelsmann, Jackson Hole Wy
December 03, 2012

New rules for owners of large rural tracts of land who host parties and special events could be decided Tuesday by the Teton County commissioners.

The decision, which would affect land throughout the county, could have far-reaching implications, both for large landowners and their neighbors.

Proponents of the new rules, which also set standards for reviewing applications, say the system gives ranchers and rural property owners the chance to make money from their land without having to develop it. That will protect valuable open space throughout the valley, they contend.

County planners argue that the regulations — available at TetonWyo.org — will give them more control over such events, which already happen at many properties. But some people argue that allowing property owners to host wedding receptions, retreats and other events will degrade the character of tranquil neighborhoods.

Commissioners are scheduled to take up the proposed rules during a meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the county administration building, 200 S. Willow St.

A decision would end months of debate over the new restrictions.

The regulations would apply to an estimated 131 properties throughout the county. Though they could have broad ef-fects, the regulations were initially driven by the Lazy Moose Ranch, near Wilson. The Lazy Moose has hosted events for years, and its owners plan to apply for the new permit if the rules are approved.

Loring Woodman and Melody Lin, who live next to the Lazy Moose Ranch, have been outspoken critics of allowing the special events. They have been especially critical of the noise and traffic that come with the events.

Lazy Moose owners Robin and Cherrie Siegfried said special event income lets them maintain open space and avoid plans for development.

The proposed regulations would allow rural landowners with at least 70 acres to apply for a special permit to hold the events.

A property would have to be agricultural, which county regulations define as being “... for the cultivation of soil, the production of forage or crops or the rearing, feeding and management of livestock, poultry, bees, fish or other animal species.” The definition also says, “Agricultural land shall be actively farmed or ranched.”

If approved, landowners could host as many as 30 events a year — 15 between April 15 and Oct. 15 and another 15 between Oct. 16 and April 14 — though commissioners could set a lower number. Planners inserted a provision that restricts landowners to no more than one event in a week.

Events could have no more than 300 guests, though commissioners could cut that for specific applications depending on parking, building size, property size and safety. Music at the events would have to end by 10 p.m., and the events would have to wrap up by 11 p.m. under the new rules.

Noise couldn’t exceed 55 decibels when measured at the property line.

Commissioners have left themselves a lot of leeway in the proposed rules so they could set more restrictive standards for future proposals. They could require valet parking or shuttles. Board members could set a requirement that owners provide a certain number of toilets.

Additionally, anyone who obtains a permit to host special events will have to submit an annual report to the planning department and, in some cases, they’ll have to turn in environmental analyses and site plans. The annual report, at a minimum, is supposed to show county officials how many events were held and what kinds of noise were recorded.

The regulations would allow events to occur within 300 feet of the property line. Parking areas would be held to the same standard.

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