Development surging in rural Park County

Posted 7/30/20

The new coronavirus and the restrictions aimed at slowing its spread have generally wreaked havoc on the economy, but development has been soaring in rural Park County.

“It’s crazy …

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Development surging in rural Park County


The new coronavirus and the restrictions aimed at slowing its spread have generally wreaked havoc on the economy, but development has been soaring in rural Park County.

“It’s crazy what’s going on,” Park County Planning and Zoning Director Joy Hill said earlier this month.

During the fiscal year that ended June 30, the office had 574 permit actions, which was up 27% from 2018-19; septic actions rose by about 45%. In June alone, the county planning and zoning office issued 32 septic permits and brought in roughly $10,800 in total revenue, she said. Each were about three times what the office would see in a normal month.

Hill isn’t exactly sure what’s driving the activity. She thinks part of the surge seen last month was due to people wanting to get permits before July 1, when the county raised its fees.

“But I don’t think that that’s fully responsible for it,” Hill said. “I just think people are just doing stuff — and everybody’s convinced that there’s going to be this mass influx of people from out of state, because of COVID.”

The general thought is that people from more urban areas are looking to relocate to more rural areas.

“And it’s true,” Hill said. “because we’ve already got people from everywhere calling and coming in to talk about properties and talk about businesses … and there’s no end in sight.”

Minor subdivisions have been popular, she said, with landowners splitting their parcels into four or five lots. Hill said she’s been told there’s a high demand for small parcels out in the country — perhaps 3 acres for a home, a horse and some hay.

Several people have approached the planning office to discuss possible major subdivisions which feature more lots — and are significantly more expensive to develop — but Hill said those discussions haven’t translated into any action to date.

There are, however, a pair of telecommunications towers, a special use permit for an animal feed pellet manufacturer, two proposed solar farms and a private riding arena.

“Right now we have a little bit of everything going on,” Hill said.

The activity has also been spread out geographically. In June, the county issued 11 permits for new homes: one near Garland, one in Wapiti, two near Ralston, two in Clark, two around Cody and three in the South Fork area. That included a two-bedroom lake house that Kanye West plans to build at his ranch south of Cody.

Separately, the Copperleaf Homeowners Association received a permit to build a residence for the employee who manages the wastewater system for the sprawling North Fork subdivision; Hill said the worker had been living in an RV, which was in violation of county rules.

Meanwhile, the amount of activity requiring a formal hearing has swamped the Park County Planning and Zoning Commission.

With nine items considered this month — including four minor subdivisions — county commissioners allowed the planning board to split the items up across two different nights: A regular meeting on July 21 and a special one on July 23.

Hill said it doesn’t appear like things are letting up, either. At the start of July, there were already another four topics on the board’s agenda for August.

“What are we going to do when the next five come in for August?” she asked, rhetorically. “We’re going to be forced to have another special meeting. Otherwise, we’re pushing people out to September, October.”

“It’s insane,” Hill said.