County: Park Owner's Appeal 'An Exercise in Fantasy'
Teton County commissioners in western Wyoming will pay an attorney $150 per hour to oversee a Buffalo Valley property owner’s appeal of a land-use ruling.
Commissioners agreed to hire attorney Mike Barton to handle an appeal hearing for Buffalo Valley RV Resort owner Harry Washut, who contends he should be allowed to bring recreational park trailers onto his property without special approval from county planners, the Jackson Hole News & Guide reported.
County Commissioners Hank Phibbs and Paul Perry said the appeal was a waste of money. Phibbs called it “an exercise in fantasy.”
Even if Washut prevails, commissioners said they are not sure he would be allowed to bring recreational park trailers to his property.
Washut is challenging a decision made in March by Planning Director Jeff Daugherty that recreational park trailers are unlike other recreational vehicles in that they are semi-permanent. Recreational park trailers or park models are hard-sided units that sit on a chassis. They are hauled to campgrounds, where they are connected to electric and sewer services.
Washut requested in February that Daugherty approve the recreational park trailers, which would have allowed the campground owner to wheel new units onto his property without additional county approvals.
Commissioners questioned Washut’s appeal because a new set of rules has been put in place that regulate the use of recreational park trailers at campgrounds. Washut asked Daugherty to review the use of recreational park trailers under an old set of rules, which commissioners said would no longer apply to his project.
Attorney Melissa Owens, who is representing Washut, argued that the units are similar to other recreational vehicles and that Washut should be allowed to bring the recreational trailers to his property, regardless of changes to the county’s land-use rules.
“Had [recreational park trailer] use on this property been deemed a similar use, Mr. Washut could have wheeled in the [recreational] park trailers,” Owens said Tuesday. “The text amendment passing after that wouldn’t apply to Buffalo Valley at that point. So appealing the similar use determination would have precluded the new amendment.”
Owens and attorney David DeFazio filed an appeal in April.
Deputy County Attorney Nicole Krieger said commissioners could decide there shouldn’t be a hearing, but that they should hear the appeal. Commission chairman Ben Ellis agreed.
“What you can do with that appeal is unclear, but the right to appeal is there,” Ellis said.
Commissioners agreed to stop planning staff from forcing Washut to remove three recreational park trailers he already has at his campground.
Planning staff said the units were illegally brought to the campground. They held off taking action while Washut had a pending application. When he withdrew it, county staff sent a letter to Washut that threatened legal action if he did not remove the units.
In return, Washut’s attorney promised that he wouldn’t bring any more trailers to the property while the appeal was pending.
Washut has been trying to bring recreational park trailers to his property for two years. He went through several reviews and meetings with county staff and elected officials but was unable to secure approval of his request, through which he initially asked to bring more than a hundred recreational park trailers to his property. Washut faced a stiff challenge from a neighboring ranch owner, who hired a former state attorney general to oppose Washut.
Commissioners were nearing a decision on the project in April, but Washut withdrew his application, saying that he did not believe he needed special permission from the county to bring the units to his land. Washut is the only campground owner still fighting with the county about the trailers.