A variance request put forth before the Park County commissioners on behalf of Kanye West has been withdrawn in response to Gov. Mark Gordon’s sage grouse executive order.

“It’s so broad, it can stop development,” said attorney Colin Simpson, a West representative.

Under the SGEO delivered in August, projects within a designated sage grouse core population area must be assessed for compliance with Wyoming Game and Fish before issuing a permit for work. 

According to G&F officials, since West’s project is within one of these core areas, it will require a density and disturbance analysis. After a technical review is completed by the Wyoming Geographic Information Science Center, G&F will make recommendations on permitting to Park County.

“(This) ought to be concerning to everybody with the impact it has to potential development in Park County and any county in Wyoming,” Simpson said. 

The review analyzes the initial radius of a project and how that compares with greater sage grouse core population areas, and subsequent radius of any core population area leks within the project area. 

“It is rather impactful in Park County. It covers a broad area,” said Joy Hill, Park County planning and zoning director.

The core area for Park County falls north and south of downtown Cody along WYO 120, and to the east on both sides of the Greybull Highway.

When presenting to the commissioners on Tuesday, Simpson could not verify if West Ranch sits inside the core area, but G&F staff and the site nrex.wyo.gov/ verified it does.

Since the SGEO is so new, county officials and commissioners are still trying to wrap their heads around its impacts and exact rules.

“We’re wondering what we’ve approved in the last 12 months that fits into this,” commission chair Jake Fulkerson said.

Ambiguity also exists about how the SGEO applies to projects such as West’s that are less than 5 acres.

“Because of that ambiguity, because the applicant wants to do things right, and we’re trying to figure out how to do that, we’ll just withdraw the request,” Simpson said.

One other significant stipulation of the SGEO is projects must be at least .6 miles from sage grouse leks, and human activity in the project zone may only occur July 1-March 14.

Furthermore, projects that disturb more than 1 acre of land must obtain a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Permit from the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality. West’s project is planned for 1.6 acres of land. 

Simpson, representing West and his Psalm 2019 business entity, was planning to come before the board requesting a variance to waive a site plan review and a corresponding approval before enacting dirt preparation for a meditation structure West is planning to build on his property, the former Monster Lake Ranch. That “large impact structure” requires a special use permit per county planning and zoning regulations.

Approval of the variance would not have eliminated, but only delayed the need for site plan review and special use permit approval.

Representatives for West had already come before the planning and zoning commission in November to build the structure. However, shortly before coming before that board on Nov. 19, West altered his plans to that structure to include a residential element, which changed the facility’s zoning. 

Then, in a letter sent to the county Nov. 26, Simpson rescinded the residential aspect.

“It was my understanding that your role was to serve as the clear line of communication between my office and the applicant following the deluge of confusion that ensued on November 19, 2019 with the change in the intended use of the structure,” Hill wrote in response to Simpson, “Unfortunately, here we are again with a lack of clarity on an intended use.” 

Also at that P&Z meeting, West’s representatives were criticized for performing significant dirt work and excavation before getting any permitting. They were told to halt the work immediately and it appears they did so.

It is that same work that Simpson was planning to seek approval to continue.

In his letter to the county, Simpson cited a “substantial” portion of the meditation structure would be underground and thus requiring a significant amount of dirt work. He said a few more weeks of work still remained and Harris Trucking was attempting to complete the excavating work before winter conditions became too prohibitive. 

“Because this large impact structure is substantially underground it presents special circumstances and conditions that are peculiar to the land and the structure,” P&Z staff member Kim Dillivan wrote in application documents. “Allowing the applicant to simply complete the excavation and dirt work will not prejudice the remainder of any site plan review process or of the application of the standards and regulations to the proposed structure.

Joy Hill denied the waiver request on Dec. 3 saying the proposal would involve a change in the type of land use. 

“The scale and peculiarity of the proposed project lends it to a complete and thorough review rather than conducting attenuated review or approving accelerated development,” Dillivan wrote, further mentioning rockfall risks around the structure.

She still permitted it to go before the commissioner board for its possible approval.

Dillivan also said that her denial does not preclude the site use plan and dirt work from happening in the future, but only halts any possibility for immediate recommencement of activities.

P&Z commission and staff members had also requested an answer to what West’s long term plans are for his property but Simpson had no answer.

The meditation structure will have a ground-level roof and a large opening in the roof. G&F staff expressed concern that animals might fall into this hole and proposed it be fenced to prevent big game from falling in and birds from nesting and roosting inside.

G&F also 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.

“The entire county as far as I can tell … everything I saw is, this is mule deer habitat,” Simpson said. “So what, then you can’t construct for six months? We do want to protect natural resources, but we do want to allow natural development.”

To see if a project or home is inside the sage grouse core area, visit nrex.wyo.gov/.

(15) comments

DeweyV

So... State government ( and its shortminded minions the PC commish) plays an environmental card to stop a benign beneficial devlopment. Isn't that exactly 180° backwards from how stuff is usually done here in the Cowboy State ?

I'm having a hard time believing I lived long enough to see the heirarchy of über-conservative green-hating cabal of cowboy conservatives play the Environmental card. How many more of them green trump cards are there ? Can we protect some wolves and griz ?? The lynx and wolverines would like to know.

Yer on a roll. Don't stop now...

Hardrock

From what I have just read about all of the budget cuts the city must implement, we would think that this general area would welcome new development and the chance for new opportunities to thrive in new ways. We are excited for the opportunity to see Kanye West's new developments come to fruition.

We see a huge need for this city to allow some new business of all kinds to come in to make sure both small and large businesses can thrive and grow. Wooing some large businesses into this community would generate the desperately-needed tax dollars to help this community grow and thrive in the right way. We cannot survive on tourism alone. The population of this town is growing, and the need for more open-minded thinking has to come right along with that. Strong, dependable year-round employment is so very much needed here. Narrow-minded thinking will not change the inevitable; starting an open-minded path to make it attractive for positive growth will help keep the cost of living at a reasonable rate. Wages will become higher and more fair with more competition.

We hope to see this sage grouse issue be resolved while allowing the positive growth this development will bring to the area. In addition, we need to make sure no more businesses close or move out of this area; more jobs are needed here, not less. We should be grateful that Kanye West sees our beautiful community as a wonderful place to built his retreat.

Fox Blue River

Hey Kanye, your boy Donald Trump is on the whole windmills cause cancer thing this week again.

TOMAS

The powers that be , are going to mess with this West's project , till he just goes somewhere else and the city loses out ! My city has a yearly event in bussines worth millions of dallars because another city nit-picked the event owners till they said bye,bye !!

Gunrunner Auctions

Hilarious how the SAME Basin folks who lobbied Governor Mead's office for years (and now Governor Gordon's office) and Wyo Game & Fish and U.S. Wildlife for rigid wildlife regulations are now the ones who want to permit this CA "rocker" (or whatever he proclaims himself to be this week) to violate sage grouse mating grounds and ungulate "migration" routes (never mind that the town of Jackson blocks the country's biggest elk/deer migration - largest in the US). Laws and regulations are upheld by P&Z and county commissioners and the governor's office. CA types coming into this region who are the product of Hollyweird or make their living by obscene song lyrics are no exception. Get used to it..

Disgusted taxpayer

Interesting how locals go berserk over tourist dollars but when someone comes to town and wants to spend big bucks...same locals whine and snivel.

B-52

@todays the day... We would probably object if the County ,Game & Fish, Governor etc. came and tried to shut down any improvements you tried to complete on your land. Better be careful what you wish for others!

Disgusted taxpayer

Politics...plain to see.

Business307

I’m really trying to figure out why the county is not letting West build? One, it is his land. Two, what West is proposing is suitable for construction and personally is no one’s business! Mr. West is helping our economy during a normal down time, I hope the elected County personal can see and understand what Mr. West is contributing to this community! Furthermore, G&F needs to control the Mule Deer population in the town, and not be worried about a wide open space where the deer can decide to go around to the left or the right! Speaking of G &F have they done a study and analysis of Mule Deer, White Tail Deer, Sage Grouse, and other game animals of where they are planning to build their new facility? Should construction of their new facility be limited for summer months only? What I see is a County that would allow any of the other big ranch to build anything they desire and without any resistance, but since Mr. West is new to the area and would like to build something “different “ lets discriminate against him! Elected County Members please take into account how much Mr. West is contributing to our community and how many families he is providing for at this time of year versus the time we would normally be having! LET WEST BUILD ON HIS RANCH!!

midwhite

Why does it matter to the board what West is using the property for? is this not MERICA? if her has bought and paid for it and it's not illegal then he should be able to do whatever the heck he wants to do. Are they being critical cause he is famous? or cause he is black? rich? come one he will probably bring a lot of people with means more money to the town

B-52

The whole City of Cody is a migratory route for mule deer. Does this mean all building will have to cease from Nov.15- April 30 ? Also the Wyo Game &Fish is proposing to build a new building north of Cody . Will they have to jump through the same hoops as they are making Kanye? Who will do their mitigation?

B-52

The whole City of Cody is a migratory route for mule deer. Does this mean all building will have to cease until

cp123

Folks this is what you get when you waste a vote, these are ridiculous regulations not for from the endangered species restrictions, hopefully West will fight and win it in court for he has the resources to do it.

todayistheday

This guy would not abide by building codes in California, so he tore the buildings down, rather than bring them up to code. Why would you expect him to follow the building codes in Wyoming ? Kanye West stated when asked "why build in Wyoming" "building codes in Wyoming are way lax", Hopefully our representatives, will use their backbones, and protect the habitat, and our resources ! Time will tell !

Disgusted taxpayer

Having been in the oil business for the last 50 years,I would say your analogy about "protecting the habitat" is a joke.Look no farther than Oregon Basin for that proof.

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