Two nights of political drama unfolded in Teton County, Idaho, during the last week of October. A public meeting planned for Monday, Oct. 25, was set to discuss a revised version of the county’s proposed Land Development Code, but there were so many public comments that the meeting had to adjourn and reconvene on Wednesday, Oct. 27. KHOL contributor Natalie Schachar spoke to the chairman of the county’s Planning and Zoning Commission on the day in between the meetings to learn more.
The following interview transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity.
NATALIE SCHACHAR/KHOL: Jack Haddox is chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission for Teton County, Idaho. Jack, thanks so much for joining us today on KHOL. Can you tell us a little bit about the revised version of the county Land Development Code that was discussed Monday night?
JACK HADDOX: Well, the Comprehensive Plan was approved in 2012 for Teton County, Idaho, and as part of the whole process, we needed a new Land Development Code. So, it’s kind of been in process since 2012, but this current version started approximately two years ago. We had made an attempt to do a Land Development Code, and it pretty much fell apart when we realized that the Planning and Zoning Commission are not professional planners. And so, there was a contractor hired that handled planning type documents. They developed this current code we’re going through.
In May, the Planning and Zoning Commission received a draft copy. We had a public meeting to present the code to the folks and ask them for comments. Then during the summer, we considered all of those comments that we got and reworked what was in the code. So, the meeting Monday night was presented to the public again, saying, ‘We’ve made some changes. What do you think about it?’
KHOL: Can you tell us a little bit about the revised version?
HADDOX: Yeah, where we could we made adjustments. The May document had—in some of the zones it had certain acreage requirements and lot sizes for subdivisions, and we looked at those and said, ‘does this make sense in this area?’ And ‘what’s gone on in the past? What do we see coming up in the future?’ And so, we adjusted some of those acres. We also looked at what would be permitted in those different zones, for example, fencing. You can’t have a blanket fence [regulation], you know, for every different zone because sometimes you’re up against the foothills, sometimes you’re out in the middle of the valley. So, we looked at that and said, ‘Wait a minute, we need to change fencing requirements.’ It was just little things like that. We just went through, and a lot of these were based on public comment.
KHOL: This has really just generally been a divisive topic for the community. I know at the hearing on Monday night, the room was almost standing room only and you heard about three hours of comments and a lot of them were negative. Some said the document represented ‘discriminatory and not inclusionary behavior.’ Others said it threatened the future and would put the pace of development in Teton Valley on par with that of Jackson Hole. How do you foresee addressing some of those concerns?
HADDOX: You know, it’s kind of tough because, and this is a personal disappointment for me, I was expecting to get some substantive comments that said, you know, ‘Yes, you made a change here but I don’t think this is quite right.’ It’s really hard to deal with an emotional issue in something that is kind of a technical document that, you know, spells out what kind of lot size you can have or what kind of screening you need around that lot or the height of a building if you’re in the scenic corridor area, you know. And [when] somebody just says, ‘I don’t like it.’ Well, it’s tough to deal with.
KHOL: Rather than continue deliberation [on Monday], you made the motion to continue the meeting on Wednesday. Can you just talk a bit more in depth about what will happen in that meeting?
HADDOX: The Planning and Zoning Commission will sit down and we’ll discuss among ourselves, you know, the comments and ‘can we do anything or you know, can we make changes? Do we need to make changes? What do we think of the overall status of the document based on the comments we received?’ And at some point, we will seek a motion, someone on the Planning and Zoning Commission will seek a motion to pass this off or pull it back or whatever. I say ‘pass it on’ to the county commissioners or to the county commissioners with this kind of a recommendation or no, we’re going to take this back and we’re going to look at it again.
KHOL: And is there anything else that you’d like Teton County residents to know?
HADDOX: You know, last night I heard that we didn’t listen to them, from several of the people and I would just like them to know: Yes, we did listen. There are just certain things we can do and certain things we can’t. Considering the public as a whole because we did receive a lot of comments from the side that said, ‘get on with this thing, pass it,’ you know. So, we’ve got comments on both sides. They weren’t—the ones that were telling us to go ahead and pass it along, there were a few at the meeting last night, but I know there’s quite a few more out there and we have comments from them. It’s an ongoing process and we want to get it done, really. We want to be fair to the whole public.
KHOL: Jack, thank you again for joining us today on KHOL.
HADDOX: Okay, thank you.
A motion was approved at the second meeting for Haddox’s commission to hold off on forwarding the revised code to the Teton County commissioners. The plan now is for a new advisory committee to work on addressing concerns of the community. A group organizing as “Free Teton Valley” celebrated the decision after criticizing the proposed code for what they described as stripping area residents of “constitutional, personal and civil rights.”