The Grand Teton Lodge Company, owned by Vail Resorts, has applied to Teton County to amend the 2002 master plan for the Jackson Hole Golf and Tennis Club, designated by Teton County as a planned resort zone and governed by the planned unit development-planned resort master plan. These county zoning designations are important to note when seeing what Vail is now proposing.
This latest application is the fifth iteration of constantly changing and unsuccessful proposals that Vail’s Grand Teton Lodge Company has submitted to Teton County since 2016 with the previous stated intent to develop a trailer park to provide a place for Jackson Hole Golf and Tennis employees to camp in rather than construct employee housing.
Residents from seven adjacent neighborhoods have consistently supported Vail building new housing units for Golf and Tennis employees as outlined in the 2002 master plan. However, neighbors have opposed Vail adding 13 concrete trailer pads at Golf and Tennis in an undeveloped area in the county’s designated natural resource overlay, an area of critical wildlife habitat and in a wildlife migration corridor.
Make no mistake: Vail’s new application is not about housing for Golf and Tennis employees. Instead, it is about adding industrial and commercial operations for the Grand Teton Lodge Company for its in-park concessions operations and basing many functions, structures and heavy equipment at Golf and Tennis. Shockingly, Vail proposes adding its warehousing operation at Golf and Tennis, which would serve its in-park retail locations, including Jenny Lake, Jackson Lake Lodge, Colter Bay and Flagg Ranch. That would add significant commercial truck traffic to residential areas, seven days a week for much of the year.
Vail also proposes adding more housing for employees of both Golf and Tennis and Grand Teton Lodge Company with numbers exceeding 65 employees, despite Vail telling the county and the community it needed housing for only 13 to 26 employees at Golf and Tennis. That is in addition to the Golf and Tennis employees already housed in the on-site dormitory and duplex housing units. Vail is also asking for exceptions to the maximum square footage allowances for employee housing at Golf and Tennis from 2,500 square feet to over 11,000 square feet and mixing uses, equipment, functions, structures and housing for two separate businesses. Since many of the employees working for Grand Teton Lodge Company in Grand Teton National Park would be driving to their work locations, it will add more commuters on the roadways to and from park locations.
Oddly, Vail also proposes adding a cell tower as a “utility” for Golf and Tennis. The same cell tower was previously proposed by Verizon but was not approved by Teton County, as it would be located less than the required 150-foot setback from the Gros Ventre River channel and directly over a current Golf and Tennis dormitory. Now Vail has slipped a 75-foot cell tower into the application to amend the master plan by calling it a utility for Golf and Tennis.
The commercial business operations of the Grand Teton Lodge Company in Grand Teton National Park are completely separate and different from the business operations of the Jackson Hole Golf and Tennis Club. Teton County went through an exhaustive multiyear process to consider the master plan, which was approved in 2002. The master plan never considered a combination of Grand Teton Lodge Company in-park business, warehousing or housing employees beyond those that work at Golf and Tennis. This is a wholly new use being proposed, in direct conflict with the approved residential and resort development.
Further, Vail’s contract with the National Park Service for its commercial businesses in Grand Teton National Park expires in 2021. The Park Service will issue a new prospectus and RFO in 2020 for the next contract. There is no guarantee that Vail will be awarded the new contract.
It is worth noting that Vail and the Grand Teton Lodge Company have continued to develop these changing proposals in secrecy from 2016 through 2019. Neighbors have learned about Vail’s plans only with notification by Teton County when Planning Commission meetings have been scheduled or by checking the county planning website.
As a matter of fact, Vail’s previous 2018 application to amend the master plan had initial hearings before the Planning Commission in December 2018 followed by the Board of County Commissioners in January 2019. This meeting ran long; it was extended for a continuance in February 2019. However, prior to the February meeting, Vail requested a postponement to May. Then, just prior to the scheduled meeting in May, the county removed Vail’s continued hearing from the agenda. The reason: Vail tried to add all of these new additions for Grand Teton Lodge Company park-related operations as part of the continuance. Teton County informed Vail it would have to begin a new application and a new process because the additions were far too significant to be tacked on to the previous application.
Vail’s new proposal for these additions of Grand Teton Lodge Company operations to be located at Jackson Hole Golf and Tennis club would not be compliant with the Teton County/Jackson Comprehensive Plan or with the land development regulations.
Teton County should deny this application from advancing further.