Grand Targhee Resort (GTR) owners, investors, and consultants are working hard to evolve from a regional resort into a “world class destination resort”. In addition to a proposal to the Forest Service to significantly expand the resort boundaries and on-mountain amenities, GTR recently submitted their first development application to Teton County, Wyoming to construct a base area village with cabins, condos, hotels, restaurants, and retail stores.
For a little background, GTR acquired 120 acres at the base area from the Forest Service in 2004 after a lengthy and contentious process that involved swapping a 400 acre inholding at Squirrel Meadows near Ashton, Idaho. Since the base area became private, all zoning and land use decisions fall under the jurisdiction of Teton County, Wyoming.
If you ski up there, you know the addition of the Colter Lift has opened up a lot of new terrain. The Ghee feels a little less quaint and a little more like a large ski area in Colorado or Utah.
Now imagine increasing lift served terrain by an additional 25%, adding on-mountain lodge/restaurants, and constructing a residential and commercial village at the base.
The success of these extravagant plans is only possible with the services, infrastructure, and cooperation provided by Teton County, Idaho and the cities within. You, the residents of Teton Valley, will be paying for the additional impacts on our roads, schools, law enforcement, and emergency services. Meanwhile, new property tax revenue from residential and commercial development at the base area along with all sales tax revenue on lift tickets, food and beverage, retail sales, and lodging will be funneled to Wyoming.
The consequences of becoming a “world class destination resort” on our quality of life are easy to image because we have one on the other side of the Tetons: increasing traffic and accidents; air, noise and light pollution; more luxury homes and short term rentals; an insurmountable affordable housing crisis; and a mountain that locals can’t afford to ski. The big difference is that the taxes collected in Teton Village actually go to the community where Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is located.
Your elected officials in Teton County, Idaho have consistently expressed our concerns to both the US Forest Service and Teton County, Wyoming officials about the significant fiscal and quality of life impacts on our residents, since we were first alerted to the expansion proposals in 2020.
I recently attended three Planning Commission meetings in Jackson along with other representatives from Teton County and Driggs, Idaho to reiterate these concerns and make specific requests for revenue sharing with Idaho, adequate housing mitigation in Idaho, proactive planning for emergencies like wildfires, and some sort of mandatory consultation with service providers in Idaho. We are also trying to make sure GTR is not released from their obligations to abide by the Teton County, Wyoming Land Development Regulation (LDRs) or their approved Resort Master Plan.
GTR’s first development application for 28 cabins in a “remote forested area” was recommended for approval by the Planning Commission in a 3-2 vote despite several missing pieces including a road impact fee calculation, a wildfire management plan, and a housing mitigation plan. In addition, legal justification for using the “administrative adjustment” tool to allow some of these cabins to be built on steep slopes (greater than 30%) was lacking.
This preliminary approval supports a consistent trend that vastly favors the developer’s wants over the community’s needs, perhaps because that community is in Idaho. From the beginning, decision makers in Jackson have been reluctant to involve Idaho leaders in negotiations to mitigate and compensate for the impacts on our community. For example, there is a requirement that GTR pay a road impact fee for maintenance of the Wyoming portion of Ski Hill Road but not the Idaho portion.
The development application mentioned above that was submitted to Teton County, WY started the approval process for development on the 120 acres of private land at the base area. Further expansion of the resort boundary and resort amenities on public land is dependent on the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that the Caribou-Targhee National Forest (CTNF) requires for their decision making.
GTR consultant, SE Group (a ski industry specialist whose portfolio includes Deer Valley, Breckenridge, and JHMR) is compiling the EIS documentation on behalf of the CTNF. It will likely be released for a 90 day public comment period this Spring. The EIS is a deep dive into the potential impacts of several alternatives including one that extends the resort permit area well south of the Colter Lift down into Teton Canyon (“South Bowl”) and Mill Creek (“Mono Trees”). These are areas my fellow County Commissioner Michael Whitfield refers to as “sacred ground”.
The Teton County, Idaho Board of County Commissioner (BoCC) submitted general comments during the scoping process associated with the resort’s proposed expansion on public land, and we plan to provide additional comments when the Draft EIS is released. We will also be tracking the application for the 28 luxury cabins on private land as it works its way to the BoCC in Teton County, Wyoming next month.
GTR development is no longer an if or a when. It has started. It is critical for you, as a community member, to get involved to ensure your voice is heard.
To assist you with details of the proposals and how to effectively provide constructive comments, Teton County, Idaho will be hosting our second Town Hall meeting on the GTR expansion after the Draft EIS is released this spring. We also invite you to attend or listen to a joint meeting with the Teton County, Wyoming Commissioners on March 6th at 10am in Jackson (a recording will be available afterward). We plan to review the GTR Master Plan and the 2022 ECONorthwest socio-economic study, while discussing revenue sharing opportunities.
If you would like to provide comments now or be included on our email list for updates on the GTR expansion, please email us at: email@example.com
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