Volume 104, Number 9 - March 1, 2007
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P and Z Board approves three changes to zoning regulations
At the County Planning and Zoning Board’s mid-February meeting, the board considered three proposals for changes to the zoning regulations, and recommended approval to County Commissioners for all three.
Family Exemption Amendment
The first, which passed the board unanimously, is changing the language in the regulations for family exemptions. Previously, regulations required that a family exemption, usually granted on agricultural land for a small parcel be given a family member for a home, go through a zone change. This would result, in some cases, in large tracts of agricultural land with a very small, perhaps 5-acre parcel, of Rural Residential zoned land in the middle of the agricultural.
The board voted to allow Family Exemption parcels without the requisite zone change to residential. If the proposal passes the Commissioners, an “FE” suffix would be added to the zoning district in which the exemption occurred.
The proposal also established a minimum lot size of two acres for a family exemption parcel.
The board was concerned that cutting off the zone change requirement would mean that public hearings in front of the planning board would no longer happen.
“Coming in front of the Board keeps people honest. If we don’t have zone change, this will be abused,” noted Board member Judi Adler, mentioning that family exemptions have been abused when the family member, once granted the exemption, then sells the parcel.
The Family Exemption was created with the intention of allowing ranchers the ability to give their children a piece of land for a home without subdividing the ranch. Suzy Michnevich agreed with Adler, noting “I prefer that we hear it.”
The Board said that the language of the proposal was agreeable, but over worries of abuse of family exemptions, added language that the family exemption application must still be heard by the Planning and Zoning Board.
This amendment, Planner Bart Myers explained to the Board, would allow “setbacks for accessory structures to be the same as the main residence.”
In Rural Residential zoning districts of less than five-acre parcels, the current setbacks are a 30-foot front, 10-foot side and 40-foot rear. The amendment proposed that the setbacks be reduced to a 25-foot front, a 10-foot side, and 25-foot back.
The amendment also proposes permission for accessory structures be set back 10 feet from a rear property line and provide greater setbacks from the right of ways for state or federal highways and county roads.
With very little discussion, and all Board members in agreement, the Board unanimously passed the amendment, and recommended the County Commissioners approve it.
Guest House Size
Increase Amendment The Planning Board then heard a proposal to increase the size of guest houses. Current regulations allow guest homes of 800 square feet or less.
This issue first came up with a request from Bubba Larsen for a variance to allow a bigger guest home. This request was denied by the Board, but Myers told them that public comment indicates residents of the county would prefer larger guest homes. The amendment proposes a 1,100 square foot maximum size for guest homes, thus reaching the minimum size for modular homes.
Adler noted in an interview that allowing modular home-sized guest houses convinced her to allow an increase in the regulated size. The Board discussed Teton County’s policy that allows guest homes to be rented, but found it “slippery.”
Though each member was supportive of increasing the size of a guest home to 1,100 square feet, most were against removing the stipulation that guest homes are for “nonpaying, temporary” guests.
Jay Anderson, however, asked his fellow board members, “Why do we want to get into that? Who will police it? What about property rights?”
In a telephone interview, Anderson, emphasizing that he was speaking solely for himself, noted he agreed with Albert Sommers concern that this could increase the density of residential areas, and said that “The freedom of property rights element comes to me. How do we become so divine, get the divine right to regulate guest houses on someone’s property?”
With Anderson the sole nay vote to the amendment, it passed 4-1, with the condition that the “housing use is temporary and for nonpaying visitors or guests.”
Discussion after the amendments were recommended centered on exploring ideas to allow rental of guest homes in the county. The Board Members will address these ideas at a later meeting.
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