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County might suspend rural density trade-offs

By Kevin Huelsmann, Jackson Hole Daily
March 14, 2013

A rule that lets rural landowners build denser projects in return for maintaining open space could soon be frozen.

Teton County planning commissioners backed a proposal Monday that would put a moratorium on parts of the “planned residential development tool,” which allows the density-for-open space trades. The decision is up to county commissioners.

The freeze would apply only to the larger options afforded to landowners. There are three levels offered that allow landowners to build three, six or nine units for each 35 acres.

The freeze would apply only to the six- and nine-unit options of the development tool.

“We have a situation where the policy document we just got done with doesn’t match our regulatory document,” Planning Commission Chairman Paul Duncker said. “In that case, I think it’s appropriate to freeze this.”

Board members backed the proposal 3-1. Planning commissioner Steve Duerr cast the only opposing vote.

“I don’t believe the freeze is necessary,” he said. “We should just move more quickly on updating the [land development regulations].”

The moratorium option was proposed to give elected officials and planners time to write new land-use regulations for rural parts of the county.

They’re trying to mesh existing land-use rules with the policies included in the new Jackson/Teton County Comprehensive Plan.

The comprehensive plan, approved in May, calls for new development to be concentrated in established neighborhoods.

That means county officials must figure out how to dissuade rural landowners from developing property with valuable wildlife habitat and views.

In coming months, they’re expected to revamp development regulations for rural parts of the county.

Planners have said that freezing the planned residential tool is necessary to ensure that no one tries to race to get projects approved before the regulations are rewritten.

“We want to avoid reviewing large [planned residential development] applications that would have a large effect,” Senior Planner Alex Norton said.

Historically, landowners have gravitated toward the three-unit option. The county has issued 20 permits for three-unit subdivision planned residential developments compared to three for six-unit projects and one for a nine-unit development.

There also have been 38 permits issued for nonsubdivision planned residential developments.

Planners have said that the tool affects about half the development potential in unincorporated parts of the county.

No date was set for commissioners to review the proposal.

If approved, the moratorium will apply to any project submitted to planners after Jan. 31. It would remain in place through October.

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