Jackson Hole Park Model Project Races Forward
Despite the specter of stiff legal opposition from the county government, partners Jamie Mackay and Tom Hedges are going full speed ahead with an innovative park model development at their upscale Fireside Resort campground in the vicinity of Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Nineteen park models renting for $400 a night (!) have been practically full each night since their July opening and the partners are ready to “pull the trigger” on another 25 units, according to Hedges, business development director for the project.
“Everything is going fantastic,” Hedges told Woodall’s Campground Management.
They recently hired a landscape architect to organize the tent city, to be called “The Garrison at Jackson Hole Campground,” and hope to have the 30-tent facility open by June 1, 2012.
“Now that the cabins are in and people are seeing what our intentions were all along, the neighbors are completely in support and have sent letters of support to the county,” Hedges said.
But all is not well.
Overshadowing the young partners’ venture (both are in their early 30s) is the absence of an official OK from the Teton County Commissioners to place the park models in the campground.
“Hopefully, we will come to an agreement with the county. We are happy to make a few concessions in exchange for the county’s blessing. Over the next few months we’ll come to an agreement,” he predicted.
Hedges noted that the Jackson Hole News & Guide reported last week that the county is considering a moratorium on applications from campgrounds for park model sitings until it can further study the matter. Hedges said he thinks the county is leaning toward allowing a certain percentage of RV sites in a campground be allowed to hold park models. That percentage might be 50%, he said.
Hedges also is concerned that the county will limit park model occupancy to seasonal use.
“We would not participate in any way if that were a condition,” said Hedges, who’s eyeing winter occupancy as the campground accommodates snow skiers. (A nearby ski resort measured 557 inches of snow this past season (which ended in April). This year also marked the third time in four years the resort has received more than 500 inches of snow.)
Mackay previously sought a permit for up to 71 park trailers. An appeal from adjacent landowners delayed a hearing on that request.
Instead of waiting on the appeal, on May 31, Mackay withdrew the application and brought the finished park models to his campground near Wilson, located in the shadow of the Tetons, saying the delay would have tied up the project through summer.
Mackay maintains the park models are allowed without county approval. Soon after the first park models came in from Mackay’s factory in nearby Etna, Wyo., Teton County issued the notice to abate, threatening legal action and fines if Mackay did not remove them.
Mackay and Hedges ignored the county’s request.
County Plan Director Jeff Daugherty wrote in the letter that county staff likely will schedule an abatement hearing if Mackay does not comply. The hearing functions like a trial, with each side calling witnesses and presenting their cases to a hearing officer. Commissioners would issue a ruling on the matter, which can be appealed in district court.
The potential fines are $750 per day per park model, Hedges noted to WCM.
“If we lose this thing, there will be some financial fines attached. We don’t think it will reach that,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mackay and Hedges are preparing to deliver documents to the county-appointed hearing officer, Nancy Guthrie, who will hear the case next week. She will make a recommendation to the county, based on her findings.
Mackay and Hedges feel it’s a no-brainer.
“Visually, it is a substantial improvement over what used to be here,” Hedges said of their campground.
It could only get better.
Big Opportunities Ahead
The partners want to move forward and place 25 additional park models yet this year. And, depending upon whether they pounce on other potential orders from unnamed firms, their Wheelhaus Inc. manufacturing operation could be building substantially more units for other client. Cabin prices start at around $92,000 and range up to $130,000, depending upon customization.
For example, Hedges said, an oil company proposes to place 1,000 of the upscale park models as executive housing at all their oil fields across North America. That deal alone would be worth approximately $100 million. The production capacity at the small plant in Etna precludes that, for now, Hedges said. Accepting and then trying to fill such orders would prompt relocating production to a much larger plant in Salt Lake City, he said.
Another campground owner wants 30 park models “as quickly as we can build them,” Hedges said.
Yet another unnamed emerging campground chain is talking about making the Fireside Resorts park models “their new flagship. They feel this is the future of lodging.”