Jackson Fork Ranch tries for new resort again

SUBLETTE COUNTY – Last year, Sublette County’s zoning board and board of commissioners both turned down a rezoning request to turn 44 agricultural acres of Jackson Fork Ranch, along Upper Hoback Road, into a “high end” destination recreational resort with about 45 rooms and cabins.

Jackson Fork Ranch is owned by billionaire Joe Ricketts, who was prepared last year to invest $40-million-plus to create the luxury resort.

This time up, on Oct. 8, Rickett’s agent Morgan Fischer submitted a completed application to request rezoning 56 agricultural acres as recreational services. In “Criteria for Rezoning,” Fischer refers to the Sublette County Comprehensive Plan consistently throughout the application, which seeks rezoning “for the construction of a small destination resort with approximately 15 to 20 rooms and guest cabins.”

On Thursday, Nov. 18, Ricketts’ development representatives will meet again with the Sublette County Planning and Zoning Board, which voted against recommending last year’s rezoning request, 3-1. The public meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the Sublette County Commissioners’ Meeting Room at the courthouse in Pinedale.

The 2021 downsized resort project is on private property and “will open up recreational activities on the adjacent public lands and the adjacent Jackson Fork Ranch to the resort’s guests” – a new location for weddings, retreats and other corporate and trade meetings.

Sublette County commissioners had also voted down Ricketts’ 2020 rezone request last year, following the citizen board’s recommendation and heeding the public’s opposition to the development near very rural Bondurant.

Last winter, the popular Jackson Fork Ice Bar was situated by a permitted cross-country ski and fat bike trail on Jackson Fork Ranch requiring a purchased pass as an introduction to locals and tourists what a resort with such high-class amenities might offer.

Phase 1 will see the resort, two guest cabins and support buildings built on the northern end of the proposed area. The anticipated work force will be about 18 employees for housekeeping, service staff, culinary, maintenance and landscaping. One manager and up to three employees will be housed at Jackson Fork Ranch properties that Ricketts has bought up along the Hoback River.

Employees not living onsite during Phase 1 will be transported to and from work with a van, shuttle bus or min-bus as needed, according to the application.

“All vehicles will be stored underground on the property and returned to guests upon departure.”

The resort will offer shuttle service to and from the Jackson Hole and Pinedale airports – the Jackson airport is reportedly closing next year for major renovations.

Phase 2 will have six “Fellow Cabins” and support buildings in the parcel’s southern end.

The 2020 proposal brought more criticism and questions than support from Hoback Basin landowners and residents wanting to keep the natural area undeveloped around the unincorporated town of Bondurant.

One vocal opponent was Pat Burroughs, who lives several miles past Ricketts’ ranch on Upper Hoback Road. She is now on the planning and zoning board with Chris Lacinak of Bondurant, and previous members Ken Marincic, Blake Greenhalgh and Maike Tan.

For more information, contact Sublette County Planner Dennis Fornstrom at 307-367-4375 or [email protected].