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Jackson Hole, WY News

Access spat divides South Jackson

Pine Drive residents, Pine Glades developer can’t agree whether road should be public.

Pine Glades access dispute

In the earliest days dwelling in his cabin-sized abode near the top of Pine Drive, Jim Woodmencey often cut through the timber adjoining his neighborhood to the east, coming out of the trees at the open face of Snow King Mountain.

That quarter-mile jaunt has changed dramatically in the 33 years since 1987 when Jackson’s best-known meteorologist bought his “shack” up on the town hill. Initially the fallow 17-acre lot he cut through was a holdover property owned by the McCollisters, a relic from when the family was planning to site their ski area deep up the Cache Creek drainage.

“This was all a dead end,” Woodmencey said from the top of Pine Drive this week. “It was a dirt road.”

Today a gate, lightly defaced “no trespassing” sign and boulder barrier greets Woodmencey at the same spot.

Across from the gate is the under-development Pine Glades neighborhood, a mix of upscale and affordable townhomes. The no-trespassing signs, marking that the road is private, have fed malcontent from neighbors who’d grown accustomed to a cohesive neighborhood and being able to pass through the property on walkabouts to access Snow King and its trail network.

Woodmencey today still walks through when he wants to, because he has permission from a Pine Glades resident down the street. But most of his neighbors in this part of Jackson, on streets like Wister Avenue and Spruce Drive, don’t have that luxury.

Jackson attorney David DeFazio lives at the very crest of Pine Drive, with a porch perched over the street, and he sees firsthand how the flow of foot traffic has changed. Perhaps 30 or 40 people would pass by on a nice evening.

“Now they’ll just come up, turn around, and go back,” DeFazio said.

That exclusivity, he contends, betrays past promises and the word of past landowners, even if there’s no explicit easement spelling out that the road is passable.

Pine Glades access dispute

David DeFazio scooches past a gate Monday at the upper end of the Pine Glades development near his home on Pine Drive. DeFazio said access to a public right-of-way through Pine Glades has been slowly cut off by the development’s owner, John Tozzi.

“It’s such a no-brainer that this was allowed,” DeFazio said in front of a vacant Pine Glades duplex on Monday. “Everything was designed around the road, as far as access. This path came in on the road. There was a trailhead sign on the road. Everything centered on the road.

“I don’t understand how anybody, with a straight face, can say that pedestrian access was never supposed to exist here,” he said.

Pine Glades’ owner and developer, John Tozzi, has posed the argument that the road should be purely private. He’s trying to move forward with building out the second phase of the upscale neighborhood — 13 more townhomes proposed for Jessica Lane that still need the town of Jackson’s final OK.

There are three other requested amendments to Pine Glades’ 12-year-old development plan. Two asks are doing away with the need to heat the streets, and updating landscaping plans to square away a noncompliant townhome that lacks a certificate of occupancy. The third “big ticket” item is a requested amendment to the neighborhood’s trails plan, Town of Jackson Planning Director Paul Anthony said.

Pine Glades homeowners “probably paid a premium,” Tozzi said at an April town meeting, because they were under the impression they were buying a place along a private road.

“I also reviewed the file myself and there is not one word that mentions anything about public access,” Tozzi said. “There is many references to private property, over and over again. There have been numerous townhouses purchased based on that assumption.”

Tozzi wrote the News&Guide in an email that pedestrian traffic had been a nuisance.

“Since Pine Glades inception, there have been continual callous disregards to our property and our homeowners by the Pine Drive residents,” he wrote. “Gradually as Pine Glades has become populated with full- time residents, their violations have become increasingly obvious and contentious.”

It was left-behind dog turds on the Pine Glades street, DeFazio said, that probably touched off the fight over access to the street for the general public.

Tozzi’s email confirmed that dogs have been a source of displeasure. He alluded to a Pine Drive person’s large dog attacking a Glades resident and that person’s pooch.

Town of Jackson planners and the developers have been negotiating a long-term solution to the access dispute. Tozzi has planned “three to five” trails totaling over 4,000 feet, all of which circumvent the tight street in front of Pine Glades Drive’s free-market homes. Some of the access points are steep and switchbacked, owing to the Snow King hillside’s grade.

Where one of the routes discharges to the east, a proposed sidewalk comes as near as 15 feet from the affordable duplex occupied by Jackson hair stylist Jenny Bragg and her husband, bartender Jonathan Bragg.

Pine Glades access dispute

The home of Jennifer and Jonathan Bragg sits in the Pine Glades development, across from the affordable units and downhill from the open-market housing. The Braggs said there are plans to eliminate the bushes to make way for a pathway along the roadway at left, even though there is an existing sidewalk across the road.

“From the trail they want to put in, you could see directly into our shower,” Bragg said Monday.

There’s an existing sidewalk, she pointed out, a few steps away immediately across Pine Glades Drive. The only thing in between is the purportedly private road.

“What the town should do,” Bragg said, “is make it a public road.”

Other parts of the development have struck a nerve with neighbors and town officials.

Pine Glades, which dates to 2007, currently consists of four free-market triplexes, seven affordable townhome units, another affordable home that’s split into two units and an unoccupied free-market duplex. At some point in recent history — it’s not clear when — the tops of a couple dozen mature lodgepole trees were lopped off, opening up the canopy in front of the unoccupied free-market duplex.

“To me, it is a pretty blatant violation of the intent of that original landscape plan,” Town Councilor Arne Jorgensen said at the April 20 meeting.

An associate of Tozzi, former Teton County planning director Bill Collins, said he “was not going to defend the tree topping,” but was also not sure, “in a technical sense,” what was violated by the overeager prune job.

Tozzi, who’s been wrapped up in tree-cutting disputes before, defended the action. It was part of routine upkeep of the forest, meant to minimize the wildfire threat, he said.

“There was nothing done to take advantage of anything,” he told town councilors, “other than an attempt to clean that forest up.”

Pine Glades access dispute

The tops of about 20 trees have been removed in front of a new home in the Pine Glades development. The result improved the line-of-sight to the north, but developers say it was for forest health, not the views.

Woodmencey and DeFazio aren’t alone in fighting for access to the main drag through the development. A “Pine Drive Neighbors” Facebook group with 78 members has included threads about the development. Both men agree that the road access question is at the heart of the dispute.

“What they want to do is say we’ll build trails above and below the property — and not on the property — and say that’s good enough,” Woodmencey said. “My argument is that we were told we can have access to the road.”

In his hand was the transcript from an old Jackson Town Council meeting. The highlighted excerpt was from Dave Taylor, a former Pine Glades project manager, who said: “The interior roads are open to non-vehicular/non-motorized vehicle access of the general public.”

An October 2008 advertisement in the News&Guide also seemed to tout Pine Glades as more of a public amenity. The old owners invited the public out for free lunch at the new tunnel — a structure that’s now signed as private property.

“Enjoy Snow King just as it was,” the ad read. “Now that we’re done, you won’t even know it’s there.”

Conditions have changed, Tozzi said in an interview, since people like Woodmencey were able to walk through the unoccupied 17-acre woodlot.

“Up until 13 years ago, this was a forest,” he said.

First developer Jeff Hussey and then Tozzi himself bought the land, and in the interim they added a $15 million tunnel, a $100,000-plus gate and spent millions more on the road, which isn’t maintained by the town, he said.

Pine Glades access dispute

Pine Drive resident Jim Woodmencey stands near what used to be a trailhead into the Snow King Mountain trail system in the Pine Glades development. Woodmencey said the trailhead sign was obliterated and the trail blocked by large rocks when the development’s owner, John Tozzi, built a home nearby.

The Jackson Town Council has charged its planning staff with investigating the idea of an easement down Pine Glades Drive, so that pedestrians aren’t shut out by the gate. Councilor Jorgensen said the foot traffic ought to be welcomed, even if dog turds can be frustrating.

“That’s a benefit, that’s not a detraction,” Jorgensen said. “All in all, having the public engaged with my home is a benefit, and I look at that as a plus.”

It remains to be seen if the homeowner’s association and town will be able to hash out an agreement on an easement. The topic still lives on the town council’s agenda for Monday, but the deliberations are destined to be shelved because a lack of progress. Anthony, the planning director, said he’s having an appraiser look at a 6-foot-wide easement on the north side of the road, where bicycles would be prohibited and pets would have to be leashed.

“Whether or not they’re amendable [to an easement] is to be seen,” he said.

Reached Tuesday evening, Tozzi was reluctant to speak for homeowners or comment on the easement until a proposal was before him. He also didn’t seem too jazzed.

“It makes a dangerous, non-conforming roadway that much more dangerous,” Tozzi said. “But we haven’t seen the proposal, and I’m one member of the homeowners association.”

Contact Mike Koshmrl at 732-7067 or env@jhnewsandguide.com.

Mike has reported on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem's wildlife, wildlands and the agencies that manage them since 2012. A native Minnesotan, he arrived in the West to study environmental journalism at the University of Colorado.

(16) comments

Victoria Wood Nagle



In this day and age of media hysterics and misinformation, I depend on  Jackson Hole News and Guide’s direct and levelheaded reporting for both my Local and National news. I look forward to the straightforward and fair coverage that so many media outlets no longer provide.

Thus I was shocked to read the article regarding Private Property Rights on Pine Glades Drive.

It certainly didn’t represent your mission statement which declares that you “accurately and objectively report and document the events and issues affecting the lives of our readers while vigorously advocating for the publics access to information “

Objectivity was definitely missing. Accuracy was selective at best. Even the facts were spongeable.A great deal of ink was devoted to one sided hearsay .

If your reporter had indeed been objective, he would have interviewed more residents of Pine Glades Drive. He also could have done due diligence by fact checking. For example, here are some facts he missed:

The only reason there is a gate at Pine Glades Drive is because the residents of Pine Drive demanded it when the PUD was granted. That’s on public record. None of the residents of Pine Glades Drive like the gate. If in fact we were a “gated community” we would at least be able to use that gate but we can’t, its locked down because the people on Pine Drive don’t want increased traffic on their public roadway. The irony of course is that they want to publicly “traffic”on a private roadway.

The only reason there is a tunnel at Pine Glades is because the residents of Pine Drive demanded that egress as well. That’s also on Public Record. (Although why a simple road couldn’t have been put in I’ll never understand.) No one likes the tunnel it’s narrow and difficult and creepy. But, the residents of Pine Drive demanded that that access point be installed and it was given to them.

Pine Glades Drive was designed to incorporate a sidewalk into one lane of the roadway underneath the upper units.It was never meant for general pedestrian traffic. This peculiarity makes it tricky enough for drivers and pedestrians as it is. Opening the road to pedestrian and bike traffic would be disastrous on many levels. There is nothing elitist about this concern. It is pragmatic, and realistic.

On March 4th, on the Planning Office’s recommendation, the Planning Commission recommended 6 to 0 that the land underneath our homes (which we bought in good faith as our property ) and Pine Glades Drive remain private. This too is on record. Your reporter could have seen why they voted this way and how they came to that conclusion. I do not think that either the Planning Staff

or the Planning Commission made these decisions lightly.

The ultimate irony to me is that this ambush of an article seems to be the kind of smear campaign that rich and powerful Goliaths use against a helpless minority and yet it intimates that the residents of Pine Drive ( who’s demands were met and have cost Pine Glades

developers and the HOA over $17,000,000 ) are being unfairly brutalized by the evil elitists who’ve usurped their lives.

This unfortunate article is deeply disappointing to find in a News outlet that I have trusted and look forward to every day .

Tory Nagle

Charles Nagle

As a taxpayer to the Town,I am perplexed to find myself looking over a fence installed by my HOA to keep me from traveling down a Town road that I pay taxes to maintain. Apparently my neighbors on Pine Drive feel that their lifestyle and the value of their multi-million dollar "end of Cut de Sac" homes would be in peril should I find my way down Pine Drive to go about my daily errands.

When I opened your paper the other day and found an article that alleged to give an accurate picture of the conflict between the Pine Drive residents and the members of the Pine Glades HOA, I was dismayed to find an unprofessional rendition of serial falsehoods and omissions. Any evidence of investigative journalism was missing.

Had a member of the HOA not seen your reporter and several Pine Glades residents trespassing on the HOA's property I doubt we would have had any chance to respond to the articles falsehoods and omissions. As it was, the developer of the community had 1 hour to respond.

If I had to note one item that by omission gave the impression that the Pine Glades HOA make bad neighbors , it would be the fact that in 2007 our HOA granted an easement to our neighbor and fiercest critic David Defazio.

He was given the right to cross HOA property for the purpose of accessing his landlocked and unusable building lot adjacent to the gate that he and his allies insisted be erected to keep HOA members from accessing Pine Drive. He was granted this easement for the sum of $10.00.

Mr. Defazio has repaid the HOA's consideration with a campaign to demand access to HOA's private road. If nothing else this highlights the old saying "that no good deed goes unpunished".

It is unfortunate that the paper has allowed itself to be a tool in the campaign to paint the Pine Glades HOA as an elitist gated community. Nothing could be further from the truth.

alexander good

"As the Town reviews an appropriate course of action on dealing with access to the forest trails through the Pine Glades community, the Town should continue its long history of respecting fundamental rights and fairness for all neighbors and community members. While recognizing the desires of certain Pine Drive residents to what they might have had over a decade ago, the Town leaders must avoid disruptive actions that would abrogate its long-standing rules. The Town's establishment of developments, in this case of the Pine Glades neighborhood, are well known and were followed in this case over a protracted period of time. All residents were given, and many took advantage of, the multiple ongoing opportunities to have their views heard and considered. The Town's Planning Department has done a detailed review of the history, the record, the facts and have confirmed the current private status of the Pine Glades neighborhood and the rules governing our neighborhood. Indeed, the Town Planning Commission voted subsequently in an unanimous 6-0 decision supporting the Town Planning Department's position after their marathon review.

Let’s briefly talk about costs. Since the inception of the development, the Pine Glade owners, have had millions and millions of dollars building a street, building a tunnel and erecting substantial improvements. Moreover, over the last ten years, Pine Glades residents myself included have spent millions more out of their own pockets maintaining these improvements. The clear fact is that the primary reason the Town insisted that Pine Glades be private was to avoid having to pay for these expenses from the Town’s budget. At this very late date, and after millions have been spent by me and other good faith purchasers, a few Pine Drive residents are making calls now for unfettered access to my driveway and those of my Pine Glades neighbors. Their request, if adopted by the Town, would make a mockery of the supposed open and public process that was undertaken over a decade ago. It would further trample on rights the good faith purchasers of Pine Glades.

Finally, it seems to be swept under the rug that the current developer has committed to provide replacement trail systems to provide multiple access routes to the forest or the Town. This would be done at no expense to the residents of Jackson. These proposed trails give all residents the wonderful opportunity to access the forest or the Town around both sides of the Pine Glades driveway.

If the Town wishes to try to turn back the clock for over a decade and do an about face on its long-standing rules for the Pine Glades community, the Town will cause a substantial and negative impact on the value of good faith purchasers in our neighborhood. Without question, that would be a substantial injustice to those of us who have been financially and legally responsible and followed the established rules that the Town has laid down."

David Lloyd

David Lloyd:

I am disappointed in this article. I do not believe that the story adequately covered the facts, but instead focused on the viewpoints of a select few individuals. I’d like to review the facts of the “dispute” that were either not mentioned at all in the article or were given very little attention.

FACT #1: There is no public access easement to Pine Glades Drive. It is deeded private and has been since the development was originally approved. In fact, the original developer of the property has written to Town Council that “There was never any intention for the Pine Drive neighbors to have access to the private Pine Glades Drive and tunnel after it was built.” Additionally, the Town is actively pursuing making an offer to purchase an easement, as noted in the article. This seems to indicate the Town understands there is no right for anyone other than residents and their guests to use Pine Glades Drive.

FACT#2: After several meetings, and the same public comment that was provided by Pine Drive residents to your reporter, the Town Planning Commission voted 6-0 to approve the amendments.

FACT #3: The Town Planning Department prepared extensive (200+ pages) reports for the Town Council meetings on both April 6 and April 20 which can readily be accessed online. In both reports, the Town Planning Director, the one independent professional involved in this dispute, recommends approval of the application.

None of these facts were explicitly included in the article. In my opinion the article would have been much more interesting had the reporter questioned the small group of disgruntled residents and asked them to reconcile their positions with these facts rather than just providing a megaphone for their opinions and complaints. It would also be interesting to hear how they would justify spending scarce Town resources on purchasing an easement that only a few individuals seem to be clamoring for. As a taxpayer, I think we have bigger issues to confront. Hopefully you will be able to follow up on these questions in a future piece.

Linda Damiano

It's immensely disappointing that this issue has evolved into where we stand today. Had our Pine Drive neighbors and others who pass through Pine Glades Drive using it as a public park been respectful of our property and of the residents of Pine Glades over the years, there's a strong chance this would not have escalated to the sad situation it is today.

We have a uniquely designed road at Pine Glades that resulted from minimizing the clearing of land. With that came a limited amount of space for each Pine Glades homeowner which results in unwanted activities inches from our front doors, windows and garages. We privately maintain and insure the entire Pine Glades Drive and tunnel; the roadway directly under our living and dining rooms are insured by each and every homeowner.

For a moment, put yourself in our position…would you like folks running, walking, bicycling, skateboarding, stroller-pushing, skiing and snow boarding and dogs roaming freely ON YOUR FRONT PORCH? Would you accept mounds and mounds of fresh dog excrement and urination ALL AROUND AND ON YOUR HOME STRUCTURES? Can you or anyone honestly say you'd find this acceptable?

There are many trails to get to and from Snow King. Pine Glades Drive is just not one of them. If one is heading to Snow King for sport and exercise, why a shortcut through a private area?

Does Club at 3 Creek, Shooting Star, Gros Ventre North and the like offer public access on their private property? Is the Town and County trying to buy easements on those properties, like they are proposing for ours, or on the myriad of other deeded private properties? And does it make sense for the Town of Jackson to use tax payer monies to purchase this particular easement to appease a handful of Pine Drive homeowners? Where does it all end.

Chad Repinski

Im glad the writer is using old N&G ads to help inform readers who might not remember/have been here when this was going through the approval process. They're an incredible resource illustrating the contrast between how developers sold their projects then, and how they're used today.

James Wong

Unbiased reporting generally solicits views from all parties involved, not just one side, unless the intent is to sway public opinion. Have you ever wondered why the our first developer was forced to spend $15 Million to build a tunnel, and later forced to install a gate on the west side of our development? We can thank our Pine Drive neighbors for successfully lobbying our Town to force both our developers to impose those structures so no one from Pine Glades could “wander over onto” Pine Drive, a public road. Having successfully kept Pine Glades residents out of Pine Drive, now our Pine Drive neighbors would like access onto our “private road and tunnel.” Seems a bit hypocritical. If private property rights have no meaning in the Town of Jackson, I should have the right to roam on any and all private properties along Pine Drive without consequence, simply because I desire it. Many of us within the Pine Glades community are retirees and/or senior citizens. All we want is to live in the peace and quiet of our own homes, nothing more. We do not want our community used any longer as a bike and skate board obstacle course, a dog park where 95% of the dogs from Pine Drive roam freely while urinating and defecating all over our road and our homes (literally our buildings) and ski and snow board down our road like a ski run---day and night. We are the victims and have tolerated this abuse for years from our Pine Drive neighbors. Somewhere along the line, you decide that you’ve had enough. Once again, our Pine Drive neighbors would like our Town to impose additional conditions on us (Pine Glades residents), that they themselves would never, ever accept. What does that say about our Pine Drive neighbors? Fair play does not mean garnering all the benefits for oneself while imposing all the burden on everyone else.

Frank DiMeglio

They were not forced to build a tunnel, they elected to - Pine glades was predated by a fully approved single family subdivision called Hagen Glades. The developer elected to go for more density (and in theory more profit). The intent was to limit drive through traffic which benefits both Pine Dr and Pine Glades residents, of which I’m neither. The sidewalk and roads in town are public access, this is no different in PG based on Dave Taylor’s comments in the article above. You bought a townhome not a ranch, maybe if you wanted privacy you should reconsider your location. Also the access to the forest service trails including relocation of some of trailheads was paid by the developer of PG as part of the approval for the subdivision. So now you would like the benefits of the access without the burden of seeing your neighbors? Seems like you’re are calling the kettle black. I’ll wave next time I ride my bike through PG, hopefully you waive back. Don’t worry I don’t own a dog...

Susie Bouchard

One sided article to paint a picture of a big bad developer. Poor journalism.

Nancy Pasfield

Who paid for the tunnel?

Who plows and maintains the road?

So ridiculous to prevent people from utilizing these beloved trails, especially since many/ most of these townhomes are empty for a large portion of the year. City council and zoning must have evidence of the proposal for this new development at its inception.

James Wong

The homeowners within the Pine Glades community pay 100% of all maintenance and upkeep costs for the road and tunnel, becasue the Town of Jackson did not want any financial involvement at all years ago. Furthermore, all the construction costs for the infrastructure was entirely funded privately. Replacement hiking trails through Pine Glades (to be fully paid by the developer) are currently awaiting Town Council approval to enable public access.

Susie Bouchard

Privately built and maintained road. So now the town wants to spend how much to purchase a private driveway so a couple entitled neighbors can go through someones property? I live in the neighborhood and I've been to Pine Glades. The town wants no business plowing that private driveway - they barely keep up with the regular wide streets below! Give me a break. Amazing how a few vocal people can get the local government to entertain spending my tax $$$ to make a handful of individuals happy.

Check the legal paperwork. Ask the Clerk. Look at the plat maps. There never was a deeded public access through this privately owned parcel. Any access was provided as a lucky privilege. But I guess if you give people an inch they'll take a mile. Are we going to start buying private driveways all over town to give people access to the forest? Give me break.

John Tozzi

Nancy,

Pine Glades Developer Paid for the tunnel.

Pine Glades HOA pays for plowing and maintaining the roads and tunnels.

On Plat records the city states "Pine Glades Drive and Jessica Lane are private Roads."

Roy Garton

[tongue]Just more of how the valley has become as ol Boots Allen once said, "The Rich Man's Land"....When the valley and greedy real estate agents started selling their souls and hears out to these wealthy individuals and corporations, this is what you get. I don't miss this B.S. at all.. I do miss the Jackson Hole I grew up in where at one time, everybody knew everybody else and not every square inch of private land had a "for sale" sign on it and a million dollars per acre...

James Wong

To put things in perspective, the Pine Drive residents who are complaining about access into our community reside in these sprawling homes sitting on these huge lots with large buffer zones between their homes and the traffic road. As Pine Glades residents, we unfortunately have a buffer zone of "zero". I literally walk immediately onto a traffic road as I exit my front door. Many of us are retirees and/or senior citizens who reside in grouped townhomes with a desire to quietly enjoy the small space of our own homes. Our townhome lot size is less than 10% of each home lot located on Pine Drive, yet they still want to invade our limited space even after we've offered to construct several new trails (at our expense) to replace the single trail that was lost when our community was built entirely with private funds. Some people have an endless desire to demand more of others, while they themselves would never accept those conditions they are trying to have imposed on others. Would you like to venture a guess as to what the Pine Drive homeowners would say if we requested public access onto each and every single private property located on Pine Drive? The answer is obvious.

Jordan Epstein

This goes both ways. Now that no one knows each other when someone is asked not to let your kids play or scream in their front yard or let their dog not run free and poop on your driveway, the new Jackson resident often says, "F- You Public Property" A lot of this stems from a sense of entitlement, "all property is public" and the town's unwillingness to enforce laws on pathways or private property.

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