Kanye West and his representatives were given a stern message by Park County planning and zoning staff on Tuesday night.
“I am appalled at the abuse of our regulations and complete disregard of all of them,” Linda Putney, a Park County planning and zoning commission member said. “To come in and tell us, after pages of review – hours, to tell us it’s not even the same project? That’s just not acceptable to me.”
After Psalm Cody Ranch representatives submitted an application for a large, private meditation structure on his West Lake property, Park County Planning and Zoning Director Joy Hill announced during the P&Z commission meeting for that project, it had been communicated to her staff that morning West has changed his mind and is now pursuing a different project.
The difference is actually somewhat small on its surface. He now plans to add private residential pods outside the same planned amphitheater. The problem is by doing so, it completely changes the zoning on the structure and the way the county reviews it.
“It’s going to involve, sewer, water, utilities, all of that now which wasn’t even part of this first one,” Hill said.
The commission denied a special use permit for the structure Tuesday night.
It certainly didn’t help matters that the project was last on the commission’s agenda list for the night and didn’t even begin for discussion until 9:50 p.m.
“It’s 10:15 (p.m.), I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve put in on this,” Putney said. “To come in here and basically not tell us the truth, that’s not OK.”
Also drawing outrage from the commission was considerate construction work had already started on the project, despite not receiving any permitting yet for the work. Although some earth work prior to development is allowed, the county felt this work far passed that limit.
“That activity absolutely needs to stop,” Hill said. “We’re talking about significant ground movement and impact.”
Pictures included in application documents posted online last week showed Harris Construction cranes and haulers pushing dirt and excavating through a now flat plain on West’s property. Putney requested a cease and desist order be sent out to enforce this.
Wyoming Game and Fish recommended on the original application that West not be allowed to perform construction from Nov. 15-April 30 due to the land being habitat for mule deer and other big game animals.
Kane Morris, a principal with Point Architects, spoke on behalf of West and apologized multiple times for the last-second change, but said West was being considerate in the fact he was completely forthcoming the minute he changed his mind about the project. Unfortunately, it just so happened it was at the last minute.
“Timing was bad, we apologize,” Morris said. “It’s life, things happen, things change.”
Brian Edwards, Park County engineer, also expressed some frustration and wants the project to involve a licensed Wyoming engineer or architect moving forward.
“It’s not something we see everyday and I sure would feel a lot better if there is a Wyoming professional driving this boat,” he said.
Hill also expressed concern for West’s plans on his entire property, spurned not only by rumors flying around the general public, but also the Cody business community.
“What is his long-term vision for this property?” Hill said. “We’re very concerned how those things collectively are going to be categorized and what will actually be allowed out there.”
It appears that neither Morris or Zach Walters, another West representative at the meeting, had any inclination to what this might be.
“Other than rumors, all I can say, unless you hear from one of (West’s) representatives – I would take it as that (rumor),” Morris said.
When the project was first submitted, Los Angeles building contractor John Skolnick was the contact point and applicant on the project.
“ (Skolnick) started doing all this stuff without ever checking with anybody,” said Mike Arnold, a longtime employee of the ranch. “Obviously, he’s no longer with us.”
When county staff attempted to reach back with Skolnick they learned he was no longer working on the project. No other contact was provided, Hill said.
Morris said he would be in Hill’s office first thing Tuesday morning to discuss new plans for the project and said it will be going more smoothly from here on out. He also vowed that construction would stop immediately as well.
“We’ll make that happen,” he said. “As you guys know, this has all happened pretty fast.”
It was not official until early November that West had bought the former Monster Lake property.
But this is not the first time West has abruptly changed plans on a construction project.
Last summer, West was building prototype “Star Wars” inspired dome-shaped homes on his Calabasas, Calif., property. Those structures were demolished in September after West refused to abide by L.A. County Department of Public Works building code.
It appears no significant changes are planned for the more than 70,000 square-foot elliptical meditation amphitheater, which will measure 280 feet in diameter and slopes downwards to the center of the circle, which will sit on flat earth. The circular facility is open to the air.
“What we need is transparency,” commission chairman Marion Morrison said. “We need honesty with what is presented to us because everyone ... spends a lot of time on this.”