Snow King isn’t the only Teton County ski resort seeking updates to its master plan.
Grand Targhee Resort, 6 miles northeast of Alta, on the west side of the Tetons, wants to change how it offsets its environmental impacts.
“What we’re trying to do is make a pretty significant change here to that environmental mitigation,” said Jorgensen Associates consultant Brendan Schulte, who is working on the Targhee proposal.
The changes would also bring Targhee’s antiquated master plan into compliance with new land development regulations and the community’s 2012 comprehensive plan. Planner Roby Hurley said the new master plan is more simple and concise.
“The current master plan, it’s a tome,” Hurley said. “It’s probably 5 to 6 inches thick. It has a lot of superfluous language and drawings. This is much better organized.”
Targhee’s master plan gained county approval in 2008. The updated proposal doesn’t change the key components: Its footprint (120 acres), residential and lodging unit potential (450 units) and commercial buildout (150,000 square feet) entitlements would remain the same. As would its obligations for affordable and employee housing and transportation management.
Of those entitlements the resort has built 96 units and 37,700 square feet of commercial and support space. Grand Targhee told county staff that implementing its master plan has been “economically unviable” because the plan is outdated and environmental mitigation burdens unachievable. Currently, the resort hasn’t conserved any acres to fulfill the requirement.
The 2008 master plan required that the resort mitigate for its environmental impacts in a phased manner as it built out that development potential. The county required the resort to acquire conservation easements on 299 acres of high habitat value land within 50 miles of the resort, as well as another 301 acres with habitat, scenic or agricultural value.
Once lots at Targhee begin to sell, the original plan also required the resort to pay 1 percent of those sales to go toward further conservation easements for valuable habitat areas.
“The plan the way it’s constructed now, it’s not working,” Schulte said. “There’s nowhere to find these acres.”
Schulte said those environmental mitigation requirements have been challenging to fulfill, because acreage is hard to find, and have posed an impediment to developing per the master plan.
Instead Targhee is proposing a new mitigation method it says will be more effective: by helping fund the Teton Creek Corridor Project.
“It may not be acreage,” Schulte said, “but it’ll be more impact for the community and the environment the corridor flows through.”
The Teton Creek Corridor Project is an effort by four Teton Valley, Idaho, nonprofits to restore a degraded waterway that used to be a spawning area for the Teton River. It seeks to benefit agriculture, conserve open space and rehabilitate stream and riparian habitat. The project also aims to build a 2.5-mile pathway along the creek.
“This is a pathway connection that goes out to public lands,” creek project representative Max Ludington said. “It also connects Alta to Driggs. For Alta residents that’s a big deal.”
Grand Targhee would provide the project with $100,000 up front, as well as 2 percent of initial transfer fees and 1 percent of subsequent transfer fees. Schulte said funding the Teton Creek Corridor Project is a more “contemporary,” plausible and beneficial form of mitigation.
“We think this has a larger public benefit than arbitrary acreage,” Schulte said.
“The impact on this is much greater,” he said, “and it is worth it, and it’s going to happen because we can commit to that.
“The last agreement we committed to in 2008 turns out it just doesn’t work currently in the current regulatory climate,” he said.
Teton County Planning Commissioners approved the master plan amendments 3-0 with conditions. Commissioners wanted to see specific goals for when the creek project would be complete, after which the county could weigh in on where further funds should go.
The Teton County Board of County Commissioners will begin its final review of the Grand Targhee Master Plan at its Sept. 18 meeting.