September 15, 2021 |
At the two hour and 10 minute mark of yesterday’s three-hour public hearing discussing a zone change for a proposed mountain community, Carbon County Commissioner John Espy summed up the hard place he and of the commissioners found themselves.
Commissioner Espy was referring to the Case File 2021-2, Green Mountain at Brush Creek Ranch P.U.D. After two well-attended and sometimes emotional planning and zoning meetings in July, the proposed ski resort and exclusive residential hideaway in the mountains above Encampment was finally before the board of commissioners.
About a dozen members of the public were allowed three minutes to speak. The concerns and questions of Encampment residents have not changed. They remain concerned about impacts to their water quality and quantity, helicopter traffic in and out of the ski area, septic, roads, taxes and quality of life.
Commission Chair John Johnson said many of the questions were addressed with amendments to application after the July 27th planning and zoning meeting.
In fact, Brush Creek had agreed prior to the meeting to limit helicopter flights to medical evacuations and for airdropping materials to hard-to-access construction sites. The plan involves developing an exclusive winter playground on a 620-acre parcel in the North Fork of the Encampment River watershed. The area is zoned residential, platted for 285 lots. Brush Creek applied to change the zoning to a Planned Unit Development of 16 lots, each 35 acres or more. The lots will be surrounded by downhill and cross-country ski trails. Brush Creek says the project is compatible with the pristine nature of the area.
Proponents argue it will produce fewer impacts than the master subdivision plan, approved in 2001, Brush Creek wants to abandon. That plan, includes a hotel, condos and other traditional ski area amenities. Local resident Henry Hewitt spoke in favor of the zone change during the public hearing. Hewitt, who said he was the chairman of the planning and zoning commission in 2001 when the original ski area plan was approved, said residents should be careful what they wish for. Without the zone change, the bigger ski area could be built.
Most of the opposition to the P.U.D. yesterday, as it has at previous meetings, focused on protecting the watershed. Residents, and even Commissioner Byron Barkhurst called for baseline monitoring of water quality and quantity, with ongoing measurements reported to the Town of Encampment. Residents wanted teeth the zoning change to protect the watershed.
They did not get what they wanted. Commissioners framed concerns about water and sewer as matters governed by state agencies. The meeting began with members of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality joining the meeting by Zoom. Although Wyoming law allows counties to exert some control, DEQ officers offered assurances that will exercise due diligence as the state permitting process moves forward. Chairman Johnson steered commissioners to a vote in front of a crowded room that would wanted the issue tabled or defeated.
With that and some small tweaks to the language in the application passed as amendments, the board of commissioners unanimously approved the Brush Creek application for the zone change.
Pictured above: File photo of Green Mountain. Photo courtesy of Brush Creek Ranch.