Pickleball-playing members of an exclusive country club along the Snake River south of Jackson were dismayed to lose one of their four courts used for the paddleball sport.

The Snake River Sporting Club constructed a fourth court in violation of a permit that allowed the club to have three of the courts, which are considerably smaller than tennis courts.

When after-the-fact permits for the court were denied by Teton County planners late last year, the club was given until July 1 to deconstruct it. Five days before that deadline, Sporting Club landowner Joe Scott wrote to county commissioners on behalf of 120 fellow pickleball players.

“We feel the pickleball court is an important amenity for our community and residents of Teton County,” Scott wrote to commissioners. “Furthermore there are very few locations available in Teton County to play pickleball.”

The letter requested a 60-day extension to the demolition order. Teton County Senior Planner Hamilton Smith, who has worked on an array of Sporting Club violations, said the last-ditch effort to delay removing the pickleball court fell short. The residents who signed the letter, he said, weren’t entirely informed of the almost yearlong compliance process that Snake River Sporting Cub had navigated.

“In essence, it was an 11-and-a-half-hour request that we were handling,” Smith said.

Some 48 hours after commissioners received the letter, the court was demolished, he said. A county code compliance officer went to inspect the site July 2 and found that the approximately 30-by-60-foot area had been cleared and reseeded.

“But there’s a surety for some things on that lot that basically will be held up until the full lot met their landscaping standards,” Smith said.

Part of the reason after-the-fact permits failed is because the court infringed upon a road setback.

The letter writers wrote that they wanted time to understand the county’s “policy reasons” for removing the court.

“While we are understanding that certain setback and development rules apply,” Scott wrote in the email, “Snake River Sporting Club has a very complex and extended development history and it does not appear there has been consistency in the regulations.”

County staff learned of the unauthorized pickleball court when investigating some grading, erosion and flood-control work conducted along the Snake River. Some of those alterations have already been reversed because they violated Teton County’s land development regulations, and others are about to be. A berm that is blocking a periodic channel of the Snake River is scheduled to be removed and the floodplain around it reclaimed in the coming month, Smith said.

The final outstanding violation that the county is tracking is a “boulder trench” that was built inland to protect a hole of the golf course from the Snake River. When erosion moved the riverbank inland, the boulder feature became exposed. The Sporting Club has submitted a revised proposal to the county planning and engineering departments for a flood-control structure that would take the place of the boulder trench, and the application is under review, Smith said.

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 for 7 years. A native Minnesotan, he arrived in the West to study environmental journalism at the University of Colorado.

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