Teton County commissioners are considering changes to how big you can build structures like hospitals, schools and churches.
Revamping that policy stems from the Jackson Hole Classical Academy’s plan to build a new school in South Park.
In January, county commissioners rejected the private school’s request to amend the rules limiting building size to 10,000 square feet. The Academy sought to build a gym and auditorium exceeding that limit.
As a result the Academy successfully pushed Wyoming state legislators to approve a law — known as Senate File 49 — that has exempted private schools from county zoning authority as long as they’re “substantially similar” to the guidelines that govern public school facilities.
Now, under the new law, the Academy is moving forward with plans to open a new modular campus to students in the fall and to build a permanent campus down the line. County commissioners say the ordeal revealed a need to take a closer look at regulations limiting the size of institutional buildings in certain areas of the county.
Commissioner Mark Barron said that if the county rules had allowed for exceptions for larger buildings, Senate File 49 might not have passed.
“Sometimes that’s how you find out that your LDRs hadn’t anticipated every need the community may have,” Barron said. “I feel strongly that your land development regulations have to have flexibility for an unanticipated institutional use. That’s what we’re trying to work on.”
Commissioner Greg Epstein said the effort to change the building size limits is a “cleanup” and could encourage people to go through the county’s planning process rather than appealing to lawmakers in Cheyenne.
“I think we’re trying to prove to the state, in a sense, that county regulations are more flexible than they think, and we’re willing to be more flexible to allow for certain developments,” Epstein said. “We want to make it easier and want developers to go through our planning process, and there are ways to do it.”
He said the regulations could be adjusted to incentivize institutional development in places in the county where it makes the most sense.
For Commissioner Luther Propst, changes should be limited to the northern South Park area rather than applying countywide.
“When the Classical Academy decided to exempt itself from local zoning, we then in the spring considered it a priority to rethink our zoning in the areas very close to town, particularly northern South Park, that are envisioned in the Comprehensive Plan for future development,” Propst said.
Institutional uses in the regulations include day cares, schools, cemeteries, churches, hospitals, museums and libraries. Planners continue to gather information with the goal of drafting an amendment to the land development regulations. Any amendment would go through a full public review.