Teton County commissioners approved $5,000 in funding Tuesday to go toward crafting new regulations to protect historic artifacts like old barns.
“It would be a nice way to potentially protect a few structures that might have been related to original homesteads or ranches of historical significance in this community,” Commissioner Mark Newcomb said.
The effort is rooted in the county’s March 2018 approval of the Teton Raptor Center’s plan to redevelop the historic Hardeman Barns site in Wilson, off Highway 22.
The 2018 county approval allows the Raptor Center to remove and relocate some historic structures, upgrade others — including the famous Gothic-style north barn, transforming it into an educational programming site — and construct new buildings, like an administration building, employee housing, raptor mews and a flight chamber.
The redevelopment plan calls for adding 2,837 square feet, increasing the total development to 19,524 square feet. It calls for the removal of 9,984 square feet of buildings and the construction of 12,821 square feet.
As part of its approval of the plans, the county required a two-year delay of the destruction of a 1,570-square-foot bull barn in the historic Hardeman complex.
The county was supposed to use the two years to come up with regulations that would allow the barn to remain on-site alongside new construction without exceeding the Raptor Center’s allowable floor area.
The text amendment would exempt the floor area of certain historic structures from total floor area limitations, thereby allowing landowners to build new structures without destroying valued historic ones.
“The immediacy of this request is directly related to the Teton Raptor Center, but the text amendment would be helpful throughout the county,” the staff report said.
Rich Bloom, a Raptor Center board member, told commissioners the nonprofit wants to help the community achieve the goal of preserving the bull barn. But with building permits set to be submitted this winter, if the county doesn’t change the rules the Raptor Center will have to get rid of the bull barn in order to access the density needed for its redevelopment project.
“We want to work with the community to hold on to this as a historic artifact,” Bloom said.
The town of Jackson is in the process of refining the community’s standards and tools for historic preservation. That broader suite of regulations is expected to be delivered in April 2020, but that would be too late to save the Raptor Center barn.
Given the town’s effort, commissioners wanted to keep the scope of the $5,000 regulations narrow. Commissioner Greg Epstein wanted clear and specific language to avoid unintended consequences.
“What are the limitations? What are the sideboards of what is historical?” Epstein asked. “My concern would be somebody would try to say a 1965 Boise Cascade all the sudden is historic, versus something that actually has historical value.”
The commission approved the allocation of funds 4-1 with Commissioner Mark Barron opposed. Barron said he couldn’t support a $5,000 contract for a text amendment “that’s going to address basically one building.”
The Teton County Historic Preservation Board will oversee the hiring of a consultant to draft the regulations.
The Teton Raptor Center plans to move the main north barn onto a new foundation Tuesday morning.