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Another meeting scheduled for new Targhee plan

November 13, 2018

As the county embarks on a fifth meeting to wrestle with proposed changes to Grand Targhee Resort’s environmental mitigation requirements, the county-appointed Alta Advisory Board has come out against the plan.

“On behalf of the Alta community,” the Alta board wrote in a Nov. 5 letter, “we appreciate the significant time and effort you are giving what will likely be the greatest environmental, ecological, commercial, and residential change our community will ever see.”

The county approved Grand Targhee Resort’s original master plan in 2008. Now the resort is updating that plan as it prepares to expand. The updated proposal doesn’t change key entitlements like residential and lodging potential or commercial buildout, but the hangup so far has been how the resort compensates for its environmental impacts.

The 2008 plan requires Targhee to acquire conservation easements on 600 acres and to put 1 percent of lot sales toward further conservation easements.

Targhee originally proposed a new mitigation method in which the resort would pay $100,000 up front to the Teton Creek Corridor Project, an effort by Teton Valley, Idaho, nonprofits to restore a degraded waterway, and further support the project with a 2 percent fee on initial sales of its 450 allowed units and 1 percent on subsequent resales in perpetuity.

In its letter, the Alta board favored the county maintaining the resort’s original commitment in 2008 to conserve the 600 acres, with 301 acres in the Alta area in Wyoming and 299 acres within 50 miles of the resort in Wyoming or Idaho, plus a 1 percent transfer fee to support additional conservation easements.

Anything else, the board contended, would be “such a significant change to the master plan” that Targhee should resubmit an entirely new master plan for county review. The Alta board said it “does not wish the applicant to set a precedent for large-scale master plan amendments with less value and negative community impacts.”

The recommendation, the board said, is “based on our collective 100-plus years as individual, permanent residents of Alta and our generational experience with Alta land ownership and stewardship that dates back 130 years.” The board emphasized that while the owners of Grand Targhee have generously supported the area’s ecological and charitable organizations, the commission must consider potential future owners.

Some county commissioners, and members of the public, including former commissioners Leland Christensen and Hank Phibbs, who reviewed the 2008 plan, have worried about whether the new proposed mitigation is equal to the public benefit of the 600 conserved acres. As meetings on the plan have progressed, more have voiced concerns, including the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance.

“If you decide to change the mitigation plan, we ask that you ensure the new plan provides at least as much conservation value,” Director Skye Schell wrote to commissioners. “We do not believe that you have enough information in front of you to make this determination.”

Faced with questions that have proved irreconcilable over four meetings, Grand Targhee Resort most recently offered a revised proposal that aims for compromise: The resort would pay the $100,000 upfront to the Creek Corridor Project; 2 percent of initial sales of units at Targhee would go toward acquiring 134.5 acres of land or conservation easements within Teton County west of the Tetons; and a 1 percent fee on resale of the units would go to the corridor project.

In a memo, the resort also sought to emphasize that the corridor project provides more valuable conservation than “fragmented” conserved parcels, and that an Alder Environmental study determined that the creek corridor project was more likely to meaningfully impact the community and environment than potentially isolated parcels under conservation easement.

County commissioners are scheduled to hold a fifth meeting about the resort’s master plan proposals at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the Jackson Town Hall at 150 E. Pearl Ave.

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