SUBLETTE COUNTY – Citizens and landowners mounted a new court challenge against Sublette County commissioners’ majority approval of another controversial development near the Hoback Rim, between Bondurant and Daniel.
The first, led by a Hoback Basin citizens’ coalition, petitioned in 9th District Court against commissioners’ 3-2 approval of a contested rezoning request from Jackson Fork Ranch billionaire owner Joe Ricketts to rezone part of his ranch for a destination resort.
That petition moved like a hot potato through three judges’ hesitant hands before landing in front of 7th District Court Judge Joshua Eames, who heard oral arguments on Thursday afternoon, Nov. 10.
The second challenge was filed Nov. 3 in 9th District Court against commissioners’ 3-2 approval on Oct. 4 of another widely opposed development application from Jason and Melinda Moyes, for a conditional use permit (CUP) to build a high-priced treatment center called Sanctuary Lodge as a “public facility” on 600-plus acres of agriculturally zoned land.
Neither application was supported by the majority of the Sublette County Planning & Zoning Commission, which advised commissioners against their approval – unanimously, in the case of the Moyes’ CUP.
Commissioners Doug Vickrey and Dave Stephens voted against approving either transaction, in front of large audiences that voiced mainly displeasure with the zoning changes.
This second petition also asks 9th District Judge Marv Tyler to review and remand the majority vote by commissioners Sam White, Joel Bousman and Tom Noble to further open the gates to increased commercial development from Bondurant over the Hoback Rim and toward Daniel.
Eight families and a conservation group are petitioners – Fran and Ronald Chilcote, Lucy and William Conley, Glenda Harmon and Daniel Harrison, Carolyn and Jim Hinckley, Tara and Mike Miller, Jean and Tucker Smith, Bettina and Rollin Sparrowe, Sublette Conservation Associates and Kathleen, Alan and Tracy Tominc.
“The petitioners own Sublette County realty and excepting one, have property immediately adjacent to the (Moyes) property in this manner,” the complaint says. “(They) are aggrieved and adversely affected in fact by that action of the Sublette County Commission.”
At the county commissioners’ Oct. 4 meeting, it says, “… much discussion centered on whether the project was truly a ‘public facility,’ an otherwise authorized conditional use in the county Agriculture A-1 zoning district.”
The complaint refers to comments made on Oct. 4, one by county planning and zoning board member Chris Lacinak, that “a weakened zoning code would materially injure the county citizens.” Others noted the Rim’s often-harsh winter weather, public safety on and off Highway 191, existence of known mule deer and pronghorn migration routes, fire protection and available water.
“Petitioner Tracy Tominc, an owner of adjacent land to the (Moyes) property, publicly claimed that he had not received written notice of the public hearing on Oct. 4. He also claims that access to a chapel construction on the property has been done over his real estate.”
This time while making contentious decisions, supporting commissioners did not skip over listing their findings and reasons for how Sanctuary Lodge fit into the Sublette County Comprehensive Plan and zoning regulations.
When they had voted to approve Ricketts’ resort, White, Noble and Bousman went silent when asked to state their reasons – a fact mentioned in the Bondurant citizens’ challenge that was just heard.
On Oct. 4, Sublette County Deputy Attorney Clayton produced a prepared statement for Chair Bousman to ask each commissioner to confirm that he “reviewed and considered the eight criteria before casting their final vote” on the Moyes’ CUP.
They each said they had done so.