Grand Targhee resumes development plans after nine-year hiatus


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DRIGGS — In 2008 the Teton County, Wyoming Board of County Commissioners (BCC) approved Grand Targhee Resort’s master plan outlining the future of the base area.

Then the bottom fell out of the economy.

Instead of throwing resources into development, Grand Targhee hunkered down and weathered the storm. Now skier visitation has not only rebounded but skyrocketed, and the resort is seeing increased summer traffic as well. The time is ripe to recommence base area development.

However, in the intervening years, Teton County, Wyoming changed its comprehensive plan (2012) and regulations (2015), and now some of the conditions of Grand Targhee’s master plan are not in compliance with the county. It needs to be amended to match Teton County’s requirements.

“Targhee is very eager to get moving with this,” said Brendan Schulte, the senior planner of Jorgensen Associates, a local engineering firm that is working with the resort.

Jorgensen Associates recently held an open house in Driggs and invited questions and comments from the community. Not much has changed with the proposed amendments. The real news is that Grand Targhee is finally ready to move forward with development.

Several resort staff members who attended the open house said that the biggest feedback from guests was the state of the lodging. The Teewinot, Sioux, and Targhee lodges are all decades old.

Schulte confirmed that base area lodging renovation is the resort’s first priority.

While many meeting attendees had questions about lifts and on-mountain amenities, the Jorgensen representatives clarified that Grand Targhee has two master plans: one with the U.S. Forest Service for the land it leases, and one with Teton County for the 120-acre island of private land that constitutes the base area.

The resort currently has 96 units and is regularly at 100 percent occupancy. The master plan allows for 450 total units, including 360 within the core base area. The rest will be town homes and single family lots on the periphery. This development will take time; the master plan probably won’t see full fruition for thirty years, Schulte estimated.

“This plan allows us to build what the market determines,” he said.

Schulte pointed out that the economy of Teton Valley is inextricably interwoven with the resort, and that improved accommodations on the hill will enhance business for everyone.

The master plan also includes a robust transit plan to comply with the Teton County comprehensive plan. Grand Targhee intends to increase its parking facilities, but inevitably will begin charging for parking to encourage shuttle use.

The plan amendments need approval from the BCC and then the resort can initiate development. Schulte said that won’t happen until 2018 at the earliest, but hopes that by simplifying the master plan, the process will be more streamlined going forward.

“This makes it significantly easier to administer development for the resort and for Teton County,” said Schulte. “Our goal is to make the master plan amendment so predictable that those plans can be approved by the Teton County Planning Director administratively.”

This story was originally published in Teton Valley News. It is posted here with permission.

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