On May 13 the Teton Board of County Commissioners voted 2-1 to create a new short plat subdivision process that will simplify subdivisions in certain circumstances.
The short plat process will allow a landowner to divide a piece of land into no more than four lots if there is no additional complexity to the application. That means that all lots must meet the minimum size required in the underlying zone, the land has not been previously divided in a one-time land split, the lots are already served by county roads and utilities, and none of the property is in a hillside, wildlife habitat, and wetland or waterway overlay, or located where additional resource analysis is required.
As the code previously stood, a landowner seeking to subdivide a lot had to participate in three or four public hearings before the planning and zoning commission and the board of county commissioners, a process that could take up to a year.
“Requiring three to four public hearings when things are fairly straight forward serves no purpose to the public, the landowner, or the county,” wrote county planner Gary Armstrong in a staff report.
The county has been working on this code update for over a year, and P&Z voted to approve the code amendment last September.
While some members of the public have expressed concern about the potential for “serial short plats,” Armstrong explained that in order to further divide an already subdivided property, the landowner would need to use the significant plat amendment process, which would take longer, potentially cost more, and require more public hearings that a regular subdivision process.
“They couldn’t sneak in something administratively to further divide this and subdivide it,” he told the board on Monday.
Armstrong continued in the report, as an answer to why the county should allow or encourage more subdivision when there are already so many vacant lots: “Land subdivision will always be a sensitive topic. Private property rights are a core value of the people of Teton Valley…As we each enjoy use of our private property, allowing others the same is the social contract we all must subscribe to.”
The county comprehensive plan of 2012 included a recommendation to consider amending the subdivision ordinance to allow for a short plat process in order to support agricultural and rural landowners. In written and verbal public comment, Valley Advocates for Responsible Development argued that the short plat process actually supported developers more than farmers.
Commissioner Cindy Riegel voted against the code amendment and said, “I feel like we’re way overdue for zoning and subdivision updates that support our comp plan and I’m thinking the context doesn’t make sense to me right now especially since we’re moving forward with doing that update.”
Commissioner Bob Heneage said he agreed with Riegel that the short plat process felt “cherry picked out of the comp plan” but said, “I don’t see how it’s particularly harmful to the community…It’s a gesture that hopefully will be repaid in kind.”