Moose Hollow Holdings, LLC v. Teton Cnty. Bd. of Cnty. Comm'rs

Decision Date21 June 2017
Docket NumberS-16-0238
Citation396 P.3d 1027
Parties MOOSE HOLLOW HOLDINGS, LLC, f/k/a Moose Hollow, LLC and Blue Skies West, LLC, Appellants (Petitioners), v. TETON COUNTY BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS, Appellee (Respondent), and JCFT Wyoming Real Estate, LLC, Appellee (Intervenor).
CourtWyoming Supreme Court

Representing Appellants: Paula A. Fleck, Hadassah M. Reimer, and Matthew Kim-Miller of Holland & Hart LLP, Jackson, WY. Argument by Ms. Reimer.

Representing Appellees: Erin E. Weisman of Teton County Attorney's Office, Jackson, WY for Appellee Teton County Board of County Commissioners; and Stuart R. Day ; Brian J. Marvel ; and Erica Day of Williams, Porter, Day & Neville, P.C., Casper WY for Appellee-Intervenor JCFT Wyoming Real Estate, LLC. Argument by Ms. Weisman; Ms. Day; and Mr. Day.

Before BURKE, C.J., and HILL, DAVIS, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ.

HILL, Justice.

[¶1] Appellants Moose Hollow Holdings, LLC (Moose Hollow) and Blue Skies West, LLC (Blue Skies) own residential property in rural Teton County. JCFT Wyoming Real Estate, LLC (JCFT) owns two parcels in the same area, one a 53.2-acre parcel, and the other a six-acre parcel. At Appellants' request, the Teton County planning director issued a formal rule interpretation concerning a 2006 development permit associated with the JCFT property. At JCFT's request, the planning director issued a zoning compliance verification (ZCV) concerning JCFT's six-acre parcel. Appellants disagreed with the planning director's conclusions on both matters and appealed the rule interpretation and ZCV decision to the Teton County Board of County Commissioners (Board).

[¶2] The Board found Appellants lacked standing to appeal either action and that their appeal of the ZCV decision was also untimely. Based on those findings, the Board dismissed Appellants' appeals. On review, the district court upheld the Board's dismissal on the same grounds. We affirm the Board's standing ruling and further conclude that the planning director's rule interpretation and ZCV decision are not ripe for review.

ISSUES

[¶3] Appellants state the issues on appeal as:

1. Whether the district court erred in holding that Appellants lack standing to bring their administrative appeals where further residential development will negatively impact Appellants' aesthetic, safety, and property interests?
2. Whether the district court erred in holding that one of the administrative appeals was not timely filed even though Appellants filed the appeal just ten days after receiving notice of the decision?
FACTS

[¶4] Appellants and JCFT own property in rural Teton County near South Fall Creek Road. JCFT's property consists of 59.2 acres divided into two parcels, a six-acre parcel and a 53.2-acre parcel, and is subject to a 37.8-acre conservation easement. Appellants each own a 7.5-acre parcel adjacent to each other and the JCFT property.

[¶5] JCFT purchased its property from the Chrystie Family, LLC (the Chrysties) in October 2014. The Chrystie property was originally a single 59.2-acre parcel, but in 2007, the Chrysties, through conveyances using the statutory family subdivision exemption, divided the property into the two parcels, with recorded deeds for a six-acre parcel and a 53.2-acre parcel. Thus, when JCFT purchased its property from the Chrysties, it purchased two separately recorded parcels, a six-acre parcel and a 53.2-acre parcel.1

[¶6] Concerned with potential development of the property now owned by JCFT, Appellants, on February 19, 2015, applied to the Teton County planning director for a formal interpretation of the Teton County Land Development Regulations (LDRs). Appellants asked the planning director to determine whether the development permit issued to the Chrysties in 2006, DEV2004-0024, had expired or remained a current development permit. Because DEV2004-0024 issued when the Chrystie property was a single 59.2-acre parcel, it was understood that no development could proceed without an amendment to that permit, but Appellants took the additional position that the permit had expired and was not valid or subject to amendment to allow further development of the JCFT property.

[¶7] While Appellants' request for a formal rule interpretation was pending, JCFT, on March 20, 2015, submitted an application to the planning director for a zoning compliance verification (ZCV). Through that application, JCFT requested:

Question 1. Please confirm that the six-acre parcel created by Eliza Chrystie on May 31, 2007 pursuant to the family subdivision exemption of the Wyoming Subdivision Act constitutes a lawfully created parcel under the Wyoming Subdivision Act and the applicable Teton County LDRs in effect on May 31, 2006.
* * *
Question 2. Please confirm that if the PRD approved under DEV2004-0024 is amended to exclude the six-acre tract, that the six-acre parcel is entitled to development rights of a total of 8,000 square feet of habitable space and 10,000 square feet of non-habitable space under the LDRs.

[¶8] On April 17, 2015, the planning director responded to Appellants' request for a formal rule interpretation. At the outset of his rule interpretation, the planning director described DEV2004-0024 as a permit approving "a 2-unit, non-subdivision Planned Residential Development (PRD) on 59.2 acres of land [.]" Based on his review, he concluded DEV2004-0024 had not expired and "that the development rights permitted under DEV2004-0024 have been vested and may be amended, pursuant to the current LDRs governing amendment of prior approvals." He explained his conclusion, beginning with the history of the permit's issuance:

In June of 1999, the Chrysties applied for a building permit to construct an addition to the existing garage/storage building. A building permit (BP 1999-0286) was issued on July 13, 1999. In the Planning Department review of the building permit, staff made notes regarding the conversion of the existing garage/storage to caretaker's living quarters. The 1999 building permit did not approve or authorize this conversion. It merely acknowledges that the conversion has occurred for purposes of tracking habitable versus non-habitable floor area. The conversion of the unfinished garage/storage to a caretaker quarters resulted in the presence of one more dwelling unit on the property than was permitted under the LDRs. Review notes also indicate that pursuit of a PRD was suggested by staff, presumably to remedy the noncompliance with the limitation on dwelling units.
On November 19, 2004, the Chrysties submitted an application for a Final Development Plan for a 2-unit PRD with 70% open space on 59.2 acres. The applicant proposed that the existing conservation easement recorded in 1993 and held by the Jackson Hole Land Trust serve to meet the open space requirement for the PRD. A permit for a 2-unit, non-subdivision PRD was issued on July 7, 2006 with six conditions of approval.

[¶9] The planning director then outlined the basis for his conclusion that DEV2004-0024 was a current and vested development permit, explaining, in part:

Policy 1.4.c of the Comprehensive Plan establishes the community's primary goal to permanently protect and steward wildlife habitat, habitat connections, scenic viewsheds and agricultural open space. The policy also outlines the necessity of offering development incentives such as density bonuses to encourage the permanent protection of open space. The PRD tool is a development incentive through which the community gains permanently-protected and actively-stewarded open space in exchange for granting the land owner or developer additional density. The PRD tool continues to be supported by and is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan. The community's interest, as stated in the Comprehensive Plan, is in the open space. Once the instrument permanently protecting the open space is recorded, the community's interests are satisfied. The conservation easement associated with this PRD was in place at the time the Development Permit was issued, and thus the Development Permit vested immediately upon approval.
* * * *
As described above, the purpose of a PRD is to promote denser and more efficient, clustered development patterns by providing additional density in exchange for the community benefit of protected open space, which helps achieve the wildlife, scenic and agricultural goals of the Comprehensive Plan. The community benefit is solely the protected open space. Once the open space restriction is recorded, the timing of the residential development itself is not important to the community, whose goals have already been met. * * *
* * * *
The subject property is located within Character District 15: County Periphery. Future character in this district, as described in the Comprehensive Plan, should be rural, with a focus on open space. The Development Permit in question is for a 2-unit PRD, in which the permanent protection of open space is exchanged for clustered density. Flexibility to achieve desired future character within the protections of the LDRs is encouraged. This interpretation, which finds that the Development Permit is valid and may be amended, grants flexibility to the owner or developer in the timing of development once the conservation easement is secured. The PRD tool is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and works to achieve the desired future character of this area. At the time of approval, the proposal was found compliant with the established protections of the LDRs. Any amendments proposed to DEV2004-0024 will be evaluated for compliance with all applicable standards of the LDRs prior to approval.

[¶10] On the same date the planning director issued his rule interpretation, he also issued his response to JCFT's ZCV request. He answered the first question, concerning the validity of the six-acre parcel as a family subdivision, in the affirmative, stating, "Pursuant to the attached memo, it is the opinion of the County Attorney's office that the six-acre parcel is legally recognizable by Teton County."...

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