County, citizens work to define new P&Z draft
SUBLETTE COUNTY – A group of Hoback Basin residents involved in county planning issues joined the Board of Sublette County Commissioners at the Sept. 19 meeting to ask questions and offer comments.
The topic – the status and timeline of the revision and amendment of the county’s current planning and zoning regulations. Several pointed out that Bondurant, at the county’s northern boundary against Teton County, is already taking the brunt of Jackson Hole’s overflow of tourism and developers.
The Sublette County Planning and Zoning Commission began the revision process many months ago with long meetings and debates about definitions and how they apply to respective chapters. The county did not have a definition for “commercial” as one example. “Conditional use permits” will have a chapter of its own.
P&Z Commission members Maike Tan (who leaves this month), chair Chris Lacinak, Blake Greenhalgh, Ken Marincic and Pat Burroughs (not reappointed) worked steadily through the regulations over the past year; new members Chase Harber and Holly Roberts will finish it up).
The original board worked with county planner Dennis Fornstrom, associate planner Tess Soll and county attorney Clayton Melinkovich after regular monthly meetings and evening public workshops, including a special meeting on Sept. 19 where definitions were adjusted, scrapped or rewritten. Harber joined the meeting via Zoom.
The goal – to complete the draft, present it to county commissioners Doug Vickrey, Tom Noble, chair Sam White, Mack Bradley and Dave Stephens for review. The draft would go back to P&Z and at some point, possibly be shown to the public before commissioners make a final vote
When the P&Z commissioners expressed concerns about making sure their new rules were viable, consultant was hired to work between commissioners and P&Z.
However, the lack of a committed timeline “in writing” and doubts about the public’s ability to comment brought the contingent before county commissioners on Sept. 19. Burroughs, Dan
Bailey, Dan Smitherman and other neighbors voiced these concerns – at first to little response from the five at the big table.
Smitherman asked commissioners to set up a public meeting with the consultant, to see the revised draft and requested the timeline.
“The board has not decided yet yet about public hearings,” White said. “We haven’t made any kind of plan; we don’t know what we’re going to do yet. … Our plan right now is to get the rough draft. Then the five of us will come together to decide.”
Bradley said the public has had six to eight months to comment; Noble agreed.
Smitherman said White’s “lackadaisical response” seemed to indicate a lack of interest in public comment.
Stephens said, “I feel certain the public is going to get a chance, but we know as little as you do at this point. We’re not hiding nothing. It’s going to be out there.”
Other citizens said the county’s P&Z draft, meeting audio and even the special meeting notice required for the evening were difficult to find. Burroughs said the last minutes and audio were posted in May and June.
“That will be addressed,” White said.
Marilyn Filkins, John Carter and others said they don’t know if the P&Z office or commission ever received their comments, much less considered them.
“I’ve been submitting comments the past two years (about Joe Ricketts’ Jackson Fork Ranch) and we don’t know; our comments drop into a black hole,” Carter said.
Smitherman again requested a written timeline – “This is a complicated document. … It may not be of community interest but it should be.”
Lisi Krall said they could have “a non-adversarial relationship” so citizens did not feel “disenfranchised and you feel less embattled.”
“I know every time this group comes before commissioners, (they) roll their eyes,” Burroughs said. “When people are impacted, they do stand up.”
She referred to Pinedale residents who successfully opposed the Doyle gravel pit.
Molly Nemetz asked commissioners to remember Sublette County’s wildlife habitats and migration routes. “I hope you can direct your consultant to look closely and make sure the draft makes recommendations for wildlife.”
Most citizens expressed concern at an apparent lack of notice about the Sept. 19 special meeting to discuss Chapter 1 definitions. Some attended in person or online to listen to discussions about how to define “guest ranch,” “landing strip” or “incidental.”
Should a “guest cabin” have a kitchen? Will it be limited to the same square footage as an accessory unit? Can agriculture use diminish as others grow? Will people be required to install a landing strip for frequent aircraft landings?
Tan, Greenhalgh, Marincic and Harber, with Melinkovich, Soll and consistent attendees worked their way to just short of “public facility.”
And after Bailey and others requested a written timeline, Soll said, “No problem.”
The Sublette County Planning & Zoning Commission meets Thursday, Sept. 21, at 6 p.m., in the commissioners meeting room to review two applications and continue with Chapter 1 Definitions.
Current and working draft regulations, audio files and agendas are at https://www.sublettecountywy.gov/123/Planning-Zoning.