After months of debating who should plan northern South Park, what that plan will look like and whether the Gills’ housing proposal is right for the area, the public should have a little more clarity on all three issues after a slate of town and county meetings next week.
Senior Long Range Planner Kristi Malone, who works for both the Jackson Town Council and the Teton County Board of County Commissioners, anticipates Monday and Tuesday being a long two days.
“I’m gonna come Monday and Tuesday,” she quipped, “and then the rest of the week just like sleep.”
This correspondent has similar plans.
The planning bonanza will begin with the Board of County Commissioners’ Monday voucher meeting, where housing — the overarching topic connecting next week’s meetings — will be front and center as the commission discusses what type of workforce zoning tools could be implemented in the county.
As a product of the 2012 Jackson/Teton County Comprehensive Plan’s “town as heart” framework that supports concentrating development in Jackson rather than more far-flung county locales, the town of Jackson has tools intended to incentivize the development of housing attainable for the local workforce on the books.
The county does not. Instead, its zoning tools are intended to preserve open space and ecosystem stewardship.
But as the Gill family leads the charge to develop northern South Park (the County Commission is set to hear their controversial rezone application Tuesday), elected officials have wondered whether the county needs workforce housing tools of its own.
The land the Gills and the Lockharts are looking to develop is in the county but adjacent to the town.
“I think the question that is posed by this comp plan update is: Are there areas of the county where this would also be appropriate?” Malone said.
A new strategy in the draft comp plan, a framework against which planners, developers and elected officials evaluate land use decisions, identifies a need for increased density in some areas of the county for workforce housing.
The 2012 comp plan identifies a need to house 65% of the local workforce locally, a move intended to quell the long lines of cars that snake in and out of the valley from neighboring areas and improve the quality of life for local workers. But progress on that front has been evasive, and the percentage of workers living locally has declined in recent years.
The Teton County Planning Commission, an appointed body that makes recommendations to the County Commission, will review the comp plan update Monday. Housing won’t necessarily be the only issue. The Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, the Wyoming Outdoor Council and Protect Our Water Jackson Hole penned a joint letter to town and county elected officials, asking for more concrete action on water quality.
“While we support the direction and new attention given to water quality, we strongly feel that these changes only scratch the surface, even as our community members in Hoback lack access to clean water and nitrates are rising throughout the valley,” the three organizations wrote, laying out additions they’d like to see. “We support recent steps taken by our local government to protect water quality, but feel these changes ... are much needed.”
Getting the comp plan update to the Planning Commission was directly tied to northern South Park. After the Gills proposed their development in the area, the Town Council and County Commission spent months arguing over who should take the lead in planning the area.
A compromise was reached that saw language baked into the plan giving the County Commission the lead role, with the Town Council serving as a recommending body, but that compromise was creaky at best. Both elected bodies have continued to debate the issue independently after the language in the draft comp plan update was released for public review.
It remains to be seen whether the Planning Commission will weigh in on the issue, but the town and county will likely pick up the discussion at a Monday afternoon joint information meeting.
There, the two bodies are set to hash out their differences on a request for proposals for the pending neighborhood planning process.
Members of the community have long sought a plan in northern South Park as a way to guarantee affordability in developments like those proposed by the Gill family.
While the specifics are unlikely to be discussed Monday, Malone said it’s likely that discussing workforce and affordable housing tools will be a part of the eventual planning process.
Planners have said a neighborhood plan could result in a new zone, but Malone told the Jackson Hole Daily she wasn’t sure whether that would be applied to just northern South Park or to the county as a whole.
“Workforce and affordable incentive tools will definitely be a part of the conversation for the northern South Park plan,” she said, “but I don’t know if the scope of that conversation will be within the context of that subarea or communitywide.”
A list of Monday and Tuesday’s meetings is attached to the online version of this article at JHNewsAndGuide.com.