Guest column: Shout out to members of the Sublette County Planning & Zoning Commission!
At their Nov. 17 meeting, their professionalism and dedication to conduct a thorough examination of the Jackson Fork Ranch (JFR) Conditional Use Permit (CUP) application was impressive. Even when they were bullied and insulted by the JFR representative, the members responded in a collected manner. In fact, the JFR representative’s behavior wasn’t just rude, it was as slippery as cow manure on a corral rail.
The JFR representative grumbled that misleading information was being spread about their CUP. Then the rep started a rambling, befuddled presentation, changing employee staff numbers, relocating proposed building footprints like pieces on a checkerboard and contradicting prior statements.
The JFR rep first crowed their use permit would create jobs and “expand the area’s economic basis,” then swore the ranch would use a “skeleton crew.” Yep, 10 herculean employees would man a 300-seat restaurant, gymnasium, children’s bunkhouses and “cabin” with eight guest suites. Their supermen/women staff would handle this new construction in addition to the existing seven houses, saloon and two guest lodges. One audience member pointed out that most “high end” resorts have two staff per single guest. Realizing the gaffe and inference JFR would be a half-step above a Flea Flop Inn, the JFR rep hemmed and hawed like a yoyo, finally promising “adequate staffing.”
Another sleight-of-hand move was the JFR rep deciding on the spot, THAT EVENING, to re-position the 8,000-square-foot “cabin” and 6,000-square-foot restaurant, (referred to as a “dining pavilion”) and NOT use the sites originally noted in their application.
These impulsive and bewildering ad-libbed revisions are an insult to Sublette County. A Planning & Zoning hearing should be a structured proceeding, not a skeet shoot of proposals flying through the air. How can the public comment on an ever-changing application? But the freshly minted county attorney and staff did not protest the arbitrary about-face and allowed the JFR rep to proceed.
Think on that. Any other rezoning or Conditional Use Permit aspirant in Sublette County would be told, “Pull your application and come back when you can decide what and where you want to build.”
It’s inconsistent and capricious when one applicant doesn’t have to follow rules established for every other applicant.
Planning & Zoning members, charged with a fact-finding role, calmly questioned the JFR rep about potential impacts of the proposed commercial development. The JFR rep, who seemingly thought the meeting would be a cake walk, baffling backwater bumpkins in Hicksville, lost his patience, whined he was being “nitpicked” and THREATENED THEM WITH LEGAL ACTION. “NEXT TIME, I’LL BRING ATTORNEYS FROM CHEYENNE AND NEW YORK!!”
To their credit, the P&Z members gave the JFR rep a long look and refused to dignify the immature outburst. It may be that the JFR histrionics were not meant for the P&Z Commission members but the five Sublette County Commissioners clustered together in the back rows observing the action of county staff.
In essence, four of the five P&Z members recognized the application was incomplete, lacked sufficient data to back up the applicant’s proposal, shifting beneath their feet, and needed to be redone. This is not nitpicking. This is a process of long usage in Sublette, a considerate and cooperative way to provide adjacent neighbors, surrounding community and the public at large with a fully fleshed-out, complete land use development proposal to consider. My hat’s off to the P&Z Commission members for their perseverance and adherence to Sublette County tradition.
Wyoming statutes give counties the authority to “protect, support and advance the health, safety and welfare of the PUBLIC.” There’s nothing in Wyoming law, which gives counties, via their elected and appointed boards, the right to further the interests of specific individuals.
Toward the end of the meeting, when the P&Z Commission asked for additional illumination, a JFR rep popped to the podium and pronounced: “We will NOT supply any supplemental materials.”
Re-read that. Jackson Fork Ranch is content with purposefully withholding information from the P&Z Commission and public, comfortable with concealing data needed to make a full and complete decision on their application. Maybe that’s how they do things in metropolitan areas, but that’s not us. In Sublette, we value our custom and culture of being neighborly, a straight shooter, keeping our word, not taking unfair advantage of others and not foregoing our civic responsibility to others.
Sublette County Commissioners – it’s time to cowboy up. If this applicant, or their big city attorneys, tries to dumbfound you with their urban buzzwords, stand steady like the majority of the P&Z Commission members did during their meeting. The citizens who elected you want you to watch out for our interests, to ride for our brand.
Jocelyn Moore, Pinedale