Shawn Hill

Thank you for the in-depth coverage in your piece, “The Ghosts of Canyon Creek." We've become intimately familiar with this project since its 2008 inception; through this particular example, your paper has provided a valuable long-view perspective of evolving development issues in Teton Valley. Although the early story you reported is indeed grim, there has been a happy ending since there was an ownership change and Mr. Heimerl’s team became managing partner in 2010. Here is some additional backstory:

The original 4-square mile project with the “equestrian resort village” design proposed in 2008 by Mr. Wilcox’s development team included 23 commercial lots, 350 homesites and town homes, plus an indoor arena - all in the most untouched corner of Teton Valley, over 23 miles from city services. Our organization lobbied hard to reduce the scale and harmful impacts of this proposed mini-city which was totally out of touch with the stunningly remote and pristine landscape of the far north end of the Big Hole Mountains. The project didn’t seem to pencil out either: even at the height of the market, it was unlikely that lot sales would have covered the $24M infrastructure price tag.

Then, after the ownership change, the new Canyon Creek development team approached Valley Advocates for redesign assistance to make the project marketable. After several years of negotiations, fits, and starts, Heimerl’s team eventually proposed eliminating the resort village design altogether to create simple ranch parcels instead. This was a good move. Reducing Canyon Creek down to 21 ranch properties ranging from 43 to 166 acres was a real win–win for both Heimerl’s development team and the general community. The development team enjoyed a 90% reduction in infrastructure costs. This new design also enabled the ranch parcels to remain in the Conservation Reserve Program, preserving the $50,000 in annual revenue, while protecting topsoil for wildlife and erosion control. The general community got the benefit of an unblemished landscape and large swaths of protected habitat for big game and sage grouse.

We heartily endorsed this redesign in 2013 and encouraged Teton County to approve it, which they thankfully did. Now, for the first time, there has been interest from buyers. So while the first 2008 iteration of Canyon Creek was like something out of Disney Land, the final 2013 finished product showed the true value in redesigning these unmarketable subdivisions to promote and protect our greatest asset: this valley’s stunning rural landscape.

Shawn Hill

Executive Director

Valley Advocates for Responsible Development

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