A South Fork couple who want to run a program for developmentally challenged adults out of their home will be allowed to proceed, despite significant opposition from neighboring residents and a recommendation for denial by Park County Planning and Zoning.
The Park County Commissioners voted 3-1 to approve Will’s Hope on June 4, with commissioner Lloyd Thiel voting in opposition.
“This is ag-residential area,” Thiel said.
The commissioners placed certain limitations on Sarah and Mark Squire to run their nonprofit organization out of 19 Davis Draw Road.
“We can put in some very strict mitigating guidelines that take care of the concerns of the community up there,” commissioner Joe Tilden said. “As far as use, we need to put enough stipulations on approval. Hopefully, it’ll all work out.”
Tilden said this application reminded him of a group home that took up residence near his home. He said he was at first opposed to the operation, but then later came to the conclusion it was appropriate in its use and location.
They will only be allowed to host a total of nine people at their residence, including staff. Squire said he intends to build additional structures on the property in the future that would increase the property limit up to what he hopes will be 12 people.
Any plans for future structures on the property must come back before commissioners before their special use permit can be amended. Any new structure may require a geotechnical review for its impact on the surrounding environment because it is close enough in proximity to a nearby hill.
The SUP drew criticism from some commissioners in that Will’s Hope is falling under the dude ranch and resort designation, which Thiel said is a poor fit for the actual use taking place.
“I was struggling with the dude ranch classification,” he said. “I was looking to find somewhere where I could find a classification like this had taken place in any zoning area and I couldn’t find one. I really don’t think this is the site for this.”
Livingston said the term “resort” applies more to Will’s Hope than the “dude ranch” part of the title.
Commissioner Lee Livingston also struggled with some of the guidelines referred to in the Park County Development Standards and Regulations, when making a decision on the application.
“Will not create a substantial adverse impact on adjacent properties? That is so subjective,” he said. “That’s where we bring in the public comment.”
The commissioners had to weigh not only whether the resort met county guidelines, but also whether it could be harmonious with the rest of its neighborhood.
The county received numerous comments from neighboring residents protesting the application and said the Squires should not be allowed to use the property for anything but residential purposes. About 10 residents showed up for the meeting June 4, a noticeable drop from the more than two dozen which attended the first commissioner hearing on the issue May 21. Since the public comment period had closed and the hearing was reserved for a final decision, no party besides the commissioners, county staff and the applicant were allowed to speak at the June 4 meeting.
Primary in public opposition to the application appeared to be increased traffic on Davis Draw and unmanageable pressure that would occur to the property’s septic system from nine people being onsite.
“I understand the concerns of folks who live up there,” Livingston said. “I have a hard time with the concerns about the road, concerns about extra people up there … because all those [other] residents up there ... could increase the use on that road more, if not the same amount this (Will’s Hope) would.”
Mark Squire said he would contribute to the maintenance of the road, despite the fact that the residences proceeding him did not assist with these efforts.
“I’m willing to do my fair share,” he said.
The septic system at 19 Davis Draw was once again discussed June 4. Joy Hill, director of planning and zoning for Park County, said the county can immediately place demands on the Squires to expand their septic system if it appears to be insufficient. Until the matter is fixed, Hill said the Squires would be forced to “shut down” their operation.
The SUP can only be used by the Squires and cannot be transferred over to a future homeowner at the residence.