The Driggs City Council approved changes to the Tributary (formerly Huntsman Springs) development master plan in May, but now the council has to work through the gritty details of turning those concepts into reality.
Driggs Acquisition LLC, a branch of BDT Capital Partners, bought the development in 2017 but does not own the rights to the name Huntsman or the logo, and so the new owners are in the process of rebranding the almost 1,500 acre residential resort and golf course as “Tributary.”
In addition to the new name, the owners are also pursuing some significant changes to the development, including the consolidation of the public spaces into one 7.5-acre park near the courthouse and the privatization and gating of the subdivision’s roads.
At its Aug. 6 meeting, the council held three separate public hearings on Tributary, one for the development agreement, one for a series of rezones, and the final one for preliminary plat approval, in which the technical details of park infrastructure and road privatization were laid out. Although there were almost 20 people in the audience, no one spoke during any of the public comment opportunities, and only one person submitted a letter in favor of the development prior to the meeting.
The development agreement offers some points of clarification about the future of Tributary. The developer has dedicated a temporary public access easement on Primrose Street while the existing pathway along the east side of the resort, now in disrepair because of tree roots, is restored. The city and the developer have agreed to share the cost of restoration. The agreement also lays out details about the employee housing that Tributary is required to provide. Tributary will build or purchase 40 units for employees, who will pay no more than 30 percent of their income in rent. Some of the units will be co-housing arrangements in which tenants share kitchens and other amenities. If any units are vacant, Tributary can lease them to other large employers such as the county and school district.
The council members all supported the new park, which will cost the developer an estimated $1.25 million to build. The park replaces the smaller public spaces scattered throughout the development and will have a regulation sized soccer field, a playground, a basketball and pickleball court, a volleyball court, fitness circuit equipment, a picnic pavilion, restrooms, a trailhead interpretive, and an arboretum. The developer has agreed to maintain the park for two years before turning that responsibility over to the city.
The council also easily approved the vacation or erasure of City Phase II, 12 residential lots and an additional road just to the north of Sunflower Avenue.
“Vacation will allow the developer to replat this area to be more compatible with the planned unit development master plan,” explained planner Annie Dell’Isola.
Once again the most contentious matter of the meeting was the privatization and gating of Woodland Star and Huntsman (now Tributary) Drive. Councilwoman Erika Earles expressed, as she has at previous meetings, that she didn’t feel gated roads fit with the city’s comprehensive plan, which encourages connectivity between neighborhoods, and feels that gates will mar the community character of Driggs.
“People don’t come to Driggs because they accidentally missed Vail,” Earles said. “They come to Driggs because they like the old town feel.”
Public works director Jay Mazalewski stated in his staff report that because no Tributary roads are used as a through-route for vehicular traffic, gating them will not impact vehicular connectivity, and that with the easement on Primrose, pedestrian connectivity will be maintained. He estimates that the cost savings to the city in road maintenance will be $1.7 million over 20 years, as well as $140,000 in savings on pathway maintenance.
Councilman Ralph Mossman attempted to table the matter until the developer provided clarity on whether or not pedestrians, cyclists, or hypothetical rollerbladers could continue to access the now-private roads.
City attorney Stephen Zollinger said Mossman’s request made him “speechless.”
“This rollerblading conversation…it’s a nonsensical conversation,” Zollinger continued. “You shouldn’t be using your rollerblades on a public road or a private road, unless it’s a designated area for that. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard the developer say, ‘we’re going to design rollerblading lanes on our roadways.’ What they have stated repeatedly in their public presentations is, ‘we have no intentions of barricading or preventing pedestrian or bicycle traffic from having access into these private road areas, we are simply going to block cars.’”
John Gavin, the BDT partner in charge of Tributary, told the council he was excited about reviving the project but that with 25 years of real estate experience, he was surprised to encounter such resistance to what he viewed as “an elegant solution that will benefit the city in the long term.”
“When we came into this marketplace we always envisioned that this would be a project that everybody universally wanted to see be completed,” Gavin added.
When the preliminary plat was put to a vote, council members Wade Kaufman and August Christensen voted in favor and Mossman and Earles voted in opposition. The mayor broke the tie to approve the application.
City staff will review the updated plat and improvement plans before issuing a formal preliminary plat approval letter. The developer will have two years to install the public improvements and submit the final plat, which will be reviewed by the city council but does not require a public hearing. No lots can be sold in the new development until the final plat is approved, although existing properties can be sold.
Tributary announced in a press release on Aug. 12 that it will launch new real estate sales in the fall. The resort has brought on a management team that includes Ulla Rasche, formerly of the Four Seasons, as general manager; James Canedy, also formerly of the Four Seasons, as assistant general manager; and executive chef Kevin Humphry, formerly of the Spur Restaurant and Bar at Teton Mountain Lodge.
The resort will make a full transition in branding from Huntsman Springs to Tributary in the next few months.