Jackson Fork resort rezoning gets meeting date

BONDURANT – A crowd is expected to gather on Thursday evening, Nov. 18, in the Pinedale Library’s Lovatt Room for the Jackson Fork Ranch’s second attempt in two years to sway county planning and zoning board members into supporting its reworked luxury resort plan.

This time, representatives for Jackson Fork Ranch billionaire owner Joe Ricketts seek a rezone of about 56 agricultural acres, drawn in three connected triangles on the north side of the Upper Hoback Road for a recreational services district.

The first phase would be construction of a proposed 15-to-20-room lodge – smaller than the previous proposal for 45 rooms and 90 potential guests. Also planned are two four-bedroom “cabins” for guests to “enjoy recreational activities on the adjacent (Forest Service) public lands and the adjacent Jackson Fork Ranch to the resort’s guests.”

Estimating guests at two per bedroom, the first phase could bring about 56 guests expected to stay three days and be served by 18 employees for all hotel duties and maintenance.

The 2021 proposal drops onsite employee housing, replacing it with six more “fellow cabins” in phase two. It calls for housing most employees at Ricketts’ existing residential properties along the Hoback River.

All access would be via Upper Hoback Road, a county-maintained dirt road, from its intersection with Highway 189/191 to the resort’s to-be-constructed access drive across the road from existing ranch buildings.

A traffic study pertaining to guest and employee daily vehicle-trips does not refer to the first phase’s estimated two-year construction period, calling the potential impacts “low.”

As for water, a question asked at the resort’s 2020 P&Z meeting, the application states that if the Ricketts’ resort rezoning is approved, the water aquifer underneath will be studied. If the aquifer is not sufficient, the high-end destination resort will not be built.

On Oct. 8, Biota’s Kent Werlin added updates to the 2020 natural resources analysis he submitted and otherwise let it stand.

The proposed resort site is also surrounded and overlapped by what Wyoming Game and Fish has designated as elk, mule deer and moose critical habitat, the Red Desert to Hoback Mule Deer Migration and the federal Path of the Pronghorn. It is not in core greater sage-grouse habitat.

Of mule deer migration, Werlin said in one of few comments about resort construction: “These movements may be temporarily disrupted during construction; however, the deer are expected to adapt to the proposed development and adjust their movement and use patterns accordingly.”

While the new application, as did the previous version, does address conformity with the Sublette County Comprehensive Plan, it does not address what many citizens spoke up about last year – the community, custom and culture of Bondurant and Hoback Basin.

These were considered closely by P&Z members and Sublette County commissioners, who voted against the 2020 resort application.

In 2021, there are new faces – the county P&Z board consists of returned members Maike Tan, Ken Marincic and Blake Greenhalgh, and new since the last go-round are Patricia Burroughs and Chris Lacinak, from Bondurant and Hoback Ranches. Both Burroughs and Lacinak, as citizens, spoke strongly last year against the rezoning agricultural lands to recreational services.

On the Sublette County Board of Commissioners, incumbents Joel Bousman, Doug Vickrey, Tom Noble remain with newcomers Dave Stephens and Sam White.

As for Sublette County Planner Dennis Fornstrom, he said this week he has not received a single comment about the Nov. 18 meeting.

His statement to the P&Z board at the bottom of Jackson Fork Ranch’s rezoning application is simple.

“The Sublette County Planning & Zoning Office finds that this application for change of zoning. District boundary by Jackson Fork Ranch, LLC … contains sufficient information for the Sublette County Planning and Zoning Board to make a recommendation to the Sublette County Board of Commissioners.”

What’s next

The Sublette County Planning & Zoning Board meets Thursday, Nov. 18, at 6 p.m. at the Pinedale Library’s Lovatt Room. The agenda item is expected to go before Sublette County commissioners on Tuesday, Dec. 7, also in the Lovatt Room. Agendas and information are at www.sublettewyo.com.

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