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BlindBull, cut down, wins OK

By Mike Koshmrl, Jackson Hole Daily
July 04, 2013

A scaled-back version of BlindBull Meadows subdivision, a forest development along Greys River Road, got the green light Wednesday.

Lincoln County’s three-man board of commissioners conditionally approved a 20-unit version of the project after going back and forth for more than an hour at a meeting in Kemmerer.

In an unrelated turn of events, Dan Schwab, the applicant, named a potential conservation buyer for the now-developable 73-acre property: the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

Besides cutting the number of lots from 30 to 20, commissioners agreed to require property owners at BlindBull to carry insurance that covers wildfire and to install exterior sprinklers to help fend off fires.

After the meeting, Schwab described the amended plan as “cutting me off at the knees.”

“Now a third of the value is gone,” Schwab said. “I wanted to get the 30 [lots] so we could slam this thing. I think 20 lots makes it a little bit more difficult.”

Schwab has said he needed approval of the development so he could drum up interest and sell the land to a buyer who would put it into a conservation easement. He said he needs $2.5 million to settle his debt on the property.

Members of the public who spoke at the meeting asked Schwab and project manager Mark Nicoll about protecting the land.

“I thought one of the things we were going to talk about is conservationism, and I haven’t heard a word about it,” said Tim Harberberger, an outfitter and a  resident along the Greys River.

Lincoln County Commissioner Paul Jenkins responded.

“Yes, it was discussed in the paper,” Jenkins said, “but that’s not a condition of county approval. Those conditions, in my mind, are based on what the county policies are.”

The commissioners supported conserving the property.

The BlindBull property is an inholding surrounded by the Bridger-Teton National Forest. About 25 road miles from Alpine and 35 air miles from Jackson, the area is a popular recreation spot for Star Valley residents.

But “people have the right to develop,” Commissioner Kent Connelly said, addressing the public. “If it’s that important of a place, you should do what they did over in the Noble Basin over in Sublette County. Get somebody to buy it up. That’s the remedy here.”

The public might soon have that opportunity. The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission will evaluate whether to acquire the BlindBull property. A public meeting is set in Saratoga on Tuesday, said Butch Parks, Game and Fish’s land administration supervisor.

The state would then put the land into a conservation easement, preserving it forever, Parks said.

Parks said Lincoln County’s development nod “increases the need for a conservation easement to protect that property.”

“The budget Game and Fish has for acquisition for any type of land is currently at zero,” Parks said. “If in fact this planned subdivision was approved, that could increase the value of a conservation easement. It could cost more, and it may make it more difficult to find funding.”

Funds for the acquisition, if Game and Fish opts to pursue it, will likely have to come from nongovernmental sources, Parks said.

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