Central Wyoming College

Annel Hernandez is congratulated by family Sunday after getting her diploma from Central Wyoming College-Jackson in 2017 at the Center for the Arts. On Jan. 7, the Teton County Board of County Commissioners approved a rezone for a plot of land just south of Jackson Hole High School. The parcel is intended to house the community college's new location, though officials will have to jump through a few hoops before breaking ground.

Central Wyoming College is a step closer to giving its Jackson branch a new home, but the finish line is still a ways off.

In a 4-0 vote Tuesday, the Teton County Board of County Commissioners agreed to rezone a lot just south of Jackson Hole High School for a new, standalone building for the community college. Commissioner Greg Epstein was absent.

It was a decision the town of Jackson had previously tabled: OK’ing lots CWC was considering for its new school for public/semi public uses, a flexible designation for government entities like the college, a Wyoming state institution.

In 2017, voters approved a $3.82 million specific purpose excise tax measure to support the purchase of land, design and construction for a new space.

The school then purchased two lots on Veronica Lane a new building, but neighbors raised questions about the area’s ability to support the facility. In November 2019 the Jackson Town Council voted to delay a decision on the rezone.

A few months later, CWC discovered the new space near South Park and switched gears.

“This particular location is perfect,” CWC-Jackson Director Susan Durfee said after Tuesday’s meeting. Though commissioners fretted about traffic management at the already-busy intersection of South Highway 89 and High School Road, as well as the potential for construction-related contamination to Flat Creek, they seemed to concur with CWC.

Commissioner Mark Newcomb described the lot as a “very good site, all things considered.” The other three commissioners present were on board as well.

The rezone will not, however, become official until the school acquires the South Park lot from its current owner, Leeks Canyon Ranch LLC. CWC has a year to purchase the property before it reverts to its former rural zoning.

The first step appears to be in the works. Kelly Lockhart — who with his wife, Elizabeth, and sons Cody and Chase run the Lockhart Cattle Company through Leeks Canyon LLC — attended the meeting to support CWC’s project.

“Our family holds education as a very high value,” he said during public comment. “We look forward to working with CWC.”

Acquiring the lot to lock in the rezone is one of many steps necessary to pull off the whole project. Raising money for construction and programming and completing a SPET-mandated “planning review” are also on the list.

Because CWC is a state institution, Durfee said, it is required to secure funding before breaking ground.

With a match of about $7.6 million approved by the State Building Commission in July, the Wyoming Community College Commission named the Jackson Hole campus its No. 1 funding priority for 2020 legislative session, which will convene in February. The match still needs to be approved by the Legislature.

If approved, Durfee estimated that CWC will need to raise another $7 million to complete the project.

Because building plans have gone through two stages of state-level review, making alterations to those plans would more or less send the project back to square one.

“The state will only approve us building they’ve approved,” Durfee said.

The planning review process will, however, require the college to submit its site plans. Environmental factors — a Flat Creek setback, for one — will also be reviewed, complementing county intentions to look at a traffic study and CWC’s plans for using the lot. Scheduling classes to mitigate traffic impact will also likely be topics of discussion.

Further county review is set to occur after the parcel is acquired from the Lockharts and before construction starts. A timeline has not been specified.

Contact Billy Arnold at 732-7063 or barnold@jhnewsandguide.com.

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