The Gill family’s proposal to subdivide 26 acres of its northern South Park property for an 83-lot development of single family homes cleared its first regulatory hurdle Monday.

The Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend the Teton County Board of County Commissioners approve a sketch plan for the development, tacking on five recommended conditions.

Four of those conditions were substantially similar to those proposed by Teton County Planning Director Chris Neubecker. He recommended the commission approve the project so long as the Gills return for a subsequent regulatory approval with plans to address concerns about pathways, vegetation, parks and connectivity to future development.

The fifth condition was new, and related to water quality.

“Subdivisions of this scale have the potential to really negatively impact water quality, and they require careful consideration of wastewater disposal,” Dan Leemon said.

Leemon is the executive director of Protect Our Water Jackson Hole, a nonprofit working with local governments to develop a wastewater plan for Teton County. He and the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance both asked for the development’s progress to be linked to that effort.

The proposed water quality condition falls short of that, only requiring the Gills to “submit a plan for water quality and wastewater management” when they return seeking development plan approval.

At the heart of the matter is connection to the town of Jackson’s municipal water and sewer systems. While the Gills have said that’s preferred, the town’s interest in connecting to their proposed subdivision is unclear.

“Approval to connect to all Town infrastructure is at the sole discretion of the Jackson Town Council regardless of whether capacity is available or not,” Mayor Pete Muldoon wrote in a council-approved letter that said the town would view as “non-binding” any approved county project looking to connect to municipal sewer that lacked formal connection agreements.

Reed Armijo, CEO and principal engineer at Jorgensen, the engineering firm working on the Gills’ project, said conversations with the town about connecting to municipal systems are “ongoing.”

As a fallback, he said the family would look to a private on-site system.

He said either system would have to meet the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality’s standards. But Planning Commissioner Sue Lurie, who proposed the water quality condition, raised concerns about the private option and its potential impact on groundwater in northern South Park.

“We don’t know whether any given private system ... can and will actually protect those groundwater resources,” she said.

The County Commission, which will have the final say on whether to approve the Gills’ sketch plan, will weigh in on the proposal next.

Contact Billy Arnold at 732-7063 or barnold@jhnewsandguide.com.

Teton County Reporter

Previously the Scene editor, Billy Arnold made the switch to the county beat where he's interested in exploring Teton County as a model for the rest of the West. When he can, he still writes about art, music and whatever else suits his fancy.

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