Governor calls glamping biz 'pimples on the landscape'
August 10, 2023
West Bank glamping biz gets OK to apply for liquor license, light gas fires over Gordon’s descriptive objections.
JACKSON — Gov. Mark Gordon would like to see them pop.
Wyoming’s second-term Republican governor is not usually one for bombast. Still, every once in a while Gordon drops a hokey colloquialism like he did at a meeting in Pinedale in March, referring to himself as a “dirt farmer kind of guy.”
But Thursday, as Gordon talked with other statewide elected officials about the glamping resort Basecamp Hospitality LLC is developing on a 4.4-acre parcel of state land near Teton Village, the governor was frustrated — and let the audience know.
“They are white igloos that are standing like pimples on the landscape,” Gordon said, referring to the 11 milky “geodomes” Basecamp has erected. “They are quite prominent and really quite ugly.”
A few minutes later, Gordon was the only official on the five-person State Board of Land Commissioners to vote against granting an amendment to the permit the board approved for Basecamp last year.
The State Board of Land Commissioners consists of Gordon, Auditor Kristi Racines, Treasurer Curt Meier, Secretary of State Chuck Gray and Superintendent of Public Instruction Megan Degenfelder.
Together the state’s five top elected officials are responsible for deciding what happens on state trust land, which is managed to raise money for Wyoming’s schools. But since 2020 the Legislature has required the board to maximize money from Teton County parcels, hoping to capitalize on the wealthy county’s high land values.
On Thursday the changes Basecamp had asked for were minor: approval to install a few gas-powered fireplaces at the resort and approval to ask Teton County for a liquor license to sell beer.
But Gordon’s reaction was a sign of how controversial the company’s development has been in Teton County.
The geodesic domes have been the focus of multiple lawsuits, much hand wringing in the Teton County Board of County Commissioners’ chambers and hours of heated public meetings. One lawsuit was filed by water quality activists Protect Our Water Jackson Hole, who contested the approval of an initial septic system on the site. Another was filed by the state against Teton County after the county tried to enforce what it says were Basecamp’s violations of land development regulations.
The whole imbroglio has left the state and county locked in a legal fight over who has jurisdiction to regulate what happens on state trust land and led a judge to issue a restraining order against Teton County, preventing code enforcement.
Only one of the two people who provided public comment raised the larger statutory issues the case has raised: Kathy Nyrop, of Wilson, who has watchdogged the development for over a year.
Referring to questions Judge Steven K. Sharpe asked in court before issuing the restraining order, Nyrop asked who would respond if a fire caused by one of the gas pits got out of control.
Gray, the secretary of state, took umbrage at Nyrop’s question, wondering whether Teton County officials had said they wouldn’t respond if there was a fire on the property.
Nyrop said, “No,” but that was a question raised in “adjudication.”
The Board of Land Commissioners didn’t return to that issue, saying they were comfortable letting courts decide questions of jurisdiction.
The board did spend time talking about the optics of the resort while staff clarified that the company would be required to get a liquor permit from Teton County before selling beer on site.
Given the ongoing tussle over jurisdiction, it wasn’t initially clear if that would be required. Jason Crowder, deputy director of the Office of State Lands and Investments, addressed the question directly.
“In order to sell beer on the property, they need to get a permit through Teton County,” Crowder said.
Gordon, after lambasting the resort as an eyesore, asked whether the state could require Basecamp to block the domes from sight. Crowder, in response, said Basecamp has planted the “majority of trees” intended to shield the domes from the road, but the company does plan to plant a few more trees this week.
He also said Basecamp is looking at alternate strategies to reduce the resort’s visual impact. The company is considering camouflage netting, Crowder said.
Otherwise, Basecamp has agreed to comply with state and local fire restrictions, keep fire suppression equipment close and allow only staff to light and manage the fires, Crowder said.
Gray asked whether the state would charge Basecamp more annually for the additions of fireplaces and liquor sales.
Crowder said no because Basecamp had requested doing so before, but the Office of State Lands and Investments lost the request “in the cracks” when the original permit was approved last June.
“Their rates aren’t increased because there’s a fire, because there’s not a fire,” Crowder said. “They’re just trying to, for lack of a better word, get more stars in their ratings because they have that amenity.”
This story was published on August 9, 2023.