Alliance: No new berms while regs are studied
By Mark Huffman, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Date: October 4, 2012
Teton County should ban new berms while rules are revised, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance officials say.
The alliance is urging county commissioners to stop new berm permits until land use regulations are written for the recently adopted Jackson/Teton County Comprehensive Plan.
“We want them to hold off on approving berms,” said Melissa Whittstruck, community planning director for the alliance. “We’re suggesting they find some method of limiting them right now, and a moratorium is the best tool they have.”
The alliance’s action was prompted by berm construction west of Jackson at the Fintan Ryan property, the old Puzzleface Ranch along Highway 22. Ryan is building a house on the property. Preparation of the site includes building berms that will shield the house. Massive earth-moving in the ranch pasture and associated wetlands has upset neighbors and people driving past who are accustomed to the bucolic scenery.
The land is protected by a 30-year-old conservation easement administered by the Nature Conservancy. The conservancy approved the work last year, and even praised the berms, adding to the displeasure of neighbors.
Whittstruck said Wednesday that the berms meet county rules but are still “a poke in the eye” to people who value the county’s open spaces.
The alliance’s website says work at the site has created a “monstrosity” and turned a peaceful rural panorama into a “massive disaster zone.”
Existing county rules regulating berms are nearly 20 years old. Berms are typically built to shield people in large, expensive homes from the sight and sound of traffic. Some of the most extensive berm work in the county is along South Park Loop Road and south of Teton Village at the Shooting Star golf course development.
Berms are judged by the county under a formula that looks at height, grade and the effect on views.
Whittstruck acknowledged that some berms serve a purpose and that the berms at the Ryan property “comply with the standards in place.” But she noted that while the rules are “pretty specific,” there “have been some spectacular failures” in the resulting work.
Wth land use regulations being revised, she thinks there should be a pause until citizens can have their say and elected officials can work those opinions into the new code.
The alliance — with some other citizens — also opposes Ryan’s attempt to build a 16,000-square-foot house. The county limits houses to 8,000 square feet but excludes from the total any footage judged to be basement space. Representatives for Ryan, who has stayed out of the dispute, have been debating with county planners about whether the lower floor of the proposed house qualifies as a basement or is just a first floor with dirt pushed against the outside wall.