Road and bridge facility will move to armory, pending Driggs approval
After a drawn-out process that has included public backlash, denials, a conservation easement, and a large facility planning undertaking, Teton County is taking the next step to relocate the road and bridge department to the armory as well as shuffling around several other departments.
The conversation started in late 2017 when public works director Darryl Johnson told the Teton Board of County Commissioners that the current road and bridge facility, built in 1991 on Buxton Avenue in Driggs, was at the end of its useful life. He requested a larger space for the county’s growing road and bridge department, and the commissioners budgeted $1.2 million for a new metal building on county-owned property next to Teton Creek on Cemetery Road.
That site proved unpopular among neighboring residents and conservation interests, and the Driggs Planning & Zoning Commission denied the county’s conditional use application to put an industrial building on the property. Since withdrawing that CUP application, the county has pursued putting part of the Cemetery Road property into a conservation easement, making it more compatible with the nearby Teton Creek Corridor project.
After batting around different options, the county finally returned to an old idea: renovate the armory.
Teton County became the sole owner of the five-acre north Driggs property that included the Idaho National Guard Armory in 2017. The building houses emergency management, IT, mosquito abatement, and Teton County Search & Rescue. In discussing moving road and bridge to the armory, the county also had to account for those departments as well as the University of Idaho Extension/4-H, which now rents office space from the City of Driggs. (In the long term, the county plans to put 4-H at the fairgrounds but hasn’t started on that project yet.)
Darryl Johnson and Commissioner Bob Heneage, with the help of Big-D Construction and JRW & Associates, headed up a facility planning project to gauge the needs of all the departments. They concluded that the best use of existing properties would be to move SAR and U of I Extension/4-H into the existing road and bridge space. That would require tearing down some of the decrepit storage units on site, renovating the facility, building more equipment storage, and clearing space for future law enforcement parking and expansion on the north end of the property. No approval from the City of Driggs is required for those upgrades.
Then, at the armory, the mosquito abatement, IT, weeds, and road and bridge departments will coexist, only requiring a minor renovation that includes interior remodeling and the eventual addition of two equipment storage buildings.
With the cost savings realized by not building a new facility, the county will invest in extensive landscaping and screening to appease Driggs. In the past the mayor of Driggs has discouraged the county from making industrial additions at the armory because the building is at the gateway of the northern side of town.
The property is zoned as civic/institutional, so a conditional use permit through the City of Driggs is required to allow “public service use” at the facility.
The county commissioners agreed on Aug. 31 to pursue a conditional use permit from Driggs P&Z and then go into design review with the Driggs Design Review Advisory Committee.
“I imagine the two processes will be closely aligned but I made this recommendation [to seek a CUP and then design review] based off the likelihood that the CUP will influence design, so a lot of the design elements will likely be dealt with through the CUP,” said Driggs planning administrator Leanne Bernstein. “Then the design review process will, hopefully, be a confirmation on implementation of CUP conditions.”
The P&Z commissioners will make the final decision on the CUP, likely at an October meeting. The Driggs City Council would only review the application if P&Z denied it and the county requested an appeal.