A district court judge has affirmed the county's approval of the Teton Raptor Center's expansion plans, despite a legal challenge from neighbors.
That means the bird education, research and rehabilitation nonprofit can continue to move forward with adding and improving buildings at its 27-acre Wilson property that features the iconic Hardeman Barns.
Raptor Center executive director Amy McCarthy said the lawsuit "hasn't slowed us down, but this opinion from the district court is a great victory for wildlife, ultimately."
"Throughout the judicial review process, we've continued to move forward with the approved site improvements that are helping to preserve local history and advance our work of raptor conservation," McCarthy said.
The nonprofit's site is home to the Hardeman Barns, a complex of historic structures which date back to 1943. The site, along with more than 100 acres of open meadows to the east, was conserved by the Jackson Hole Land Trust in 1989, sparing it from development into a dense subdivision.
The Raptor Center has occupied the property since 2008, when Teton County granted it a "conditional use" permit that granted several exceptions to regulations allowing the Center to operate.
In 2017, the Raptor Center purchased the property and applied to amend that permit. That amended permit allowed the Raptor Center to remove and relocate some historic structures, upgrade others (including the famous Gothic-style north barn, transforming it into an educational programming site) and construct new buildings, like a new administration building, employee housing, raptor mews and a flight chamber.
Teton County commissioners held three public hearings on the redevelopment plans, listening to hours of public comment — both from Raptor Center fans in support of the expansion, and neighbors who worried about impacts to traffic, wildlife and scenic views. The county commission ultimately approved the updated permit unanimously in March 2018.
A month later, about 15 neighbors and members of the Hardeman family filed an appeal of that approval.
In a July 2 decision, Ninth District Court Judge Timothy Day determined county commissioners' decision was "rational, not arbitrary or capricious."
Read more in the Jackson Hole News&Guide or at JHNewsAndGuide.com.