Under Park County’s current zoning, commercial development could occur on much of the private land bordering the North Fork Highway.
That prospect did not please most of the estimated 40 residents at the Wapiti School on Monday, Oct. 3, when only two raised their hands in support.
The question about the possibility was posed by Joy Hill, county planning and zoning director, during a public meeting about updating the land use plan. She explained that the current zoning allows for such development, which is only limited by the availability of water and sewer.
“We get inquiries every day about businesses on the North Fork,” she said. “Don’t be surprised if there are more RV parks and glamping sites.”
County P&Z board member Richard Jones agreed, saying “Almost the whole North Fork could be Red Barns and Yellowstone Valley Inns from the forest to the dam.”
Audience members commented on the negative impact that businesses would have on wildlife, especially in the winter, and on the impossibility of eliminating development once it occurs.
The attendees also chose among three action options – proactive, moderate and limited – on various topics using handheld gadgets. The topics fit the meeting’s primary purpose, to explore future growth opportunities and key policy choices, and seek input on a preliminary preferred direction.
Almost 65% want the county to be proactive about growth management, 61% about supporting agriculture, and 65% about protecting crucial wildlife habitat. On large-scale wind and solar projects, the proactive vote was 80% and 78%, respectively.
About the county’s involvement in housing, the group was about evenly divided between proactive and limited, while 58% opposed the county’s adoption of the Uniform Building Code. A small majority preferred limited control of short-term rentals.
The increase in short-term rentals is creating a housing shortage for new employees and replacing neighbors with transients in the Green Creek subdivision, resident Brian Clarkson said. He estimated that more than a third of the houses are now rentals.
If the primary use of a house is as a short-term rental, Hill said, that’s considered commercial and not allowable without a permit.