South Park neighbors are challenging the county planning director’s approval of an environmental analysis that’s foundational to the Jackson Hole Classical Academy’s proposal to develop a new school.
The appeal, filed Oct. 2 against the Teton County planning director, claims that planners approved an “inaccurate, incomplete and insufficient” environmental study in a manner “erroneous and contrary to law.”
South Park residents Rich Bloom, Deborah Black and Greg Mattiko are named as individual appellants, along with Friends of South Park, a neighborhood advocacy group. They’re represented by attorney Andy Salter.
“The remedy we’re seeking is asking the county commissioners to order the applicant to prepare a complete, accurate and informative environmental analysis,” Salter said. “There are some fundamental issues they just did not address.”
As it outgrows its location at High School Road and South Park Loop Road, the Jackson Hole Classical Academy hopes to build a new school by using a county development tool that allows transfer of density between noncontiguous land parcels. The tool awards a developer bonus floor area in exchange for permanent conservation of 90 percent of total acreage.
Of the 80-acre proposed school site in South Park, about 20 acres would be home to the school facilities. The remaining 60 or so acres would be conserved, along with 121 acres off Spring Gulch Road. Consultants are also in talks about conserving additional acreage at the Bar BC Ranch. That conservation would allow the new school to import additional density to the South Park site for a proposed school totaling more than 116,000 square feet.
As a required part of the application for the new school, Intermountain Aquatics completed an environmental analysis that includes a habitat inventory of all the parcels involved and an analysis of the plan’s impact. The analysis was revised twice before being deemed “sufficient” by county planners.
The analysis found that the proposed location for the school didn’t include habitat for protected species.
The neighbors’ appeal enumerates shortcomings of the report, claiming, for example, that it didn’t analyze development effects on the “South Park elk herd” or air quality and scenic beauty. The filing of the appeal triggers an automatic stay on a proposal’s progress.
The academy’s attorney, Leah Corrigan, said the environmental analysis is prepared by a professional consultant appointed and qualified by the county, and the academy “has no control over that process or its outcome.”
“It’s a process with integrity,” Corrigan said. “Having not yet had an opportunity to review the appeal, I can only surmise that the activists and their lawyers oppose the Classical Academy not on its merits but because they oppose any development in South Park. Whether that’s an appropriate position is a matter of debate for the entire Teton County community.”
An appellant is required to be “aggrieved” by the administrative decision at hand, with an interest that is “definite and tangible, and exceeds the general interest in the community good shared by all persons.”
To pave the way for the new school, the Academy’s agents have also separately submitted two additional applications for amendments to the countywide land regulations.
One proposed amendment would raise the maximum building size in the rural zone from 10,000 square feet to 30,000 to accommodate a gymnasium and auditorium. The other would allow institutions in the rural zone to operate outside the hours of 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., allowing early school hours. The county would evaluate, on a case-by-case basis, the use of both amendments.
Those text amendments are scheduled to proceed to review by the county planning commission on Oct. 22.