Downtown historic preservation

Town officials will seek to define “Western character” as they rezone Town Square and find ways to promote historic preservation around Jackson.

By tapping into Jackson’s collective cultural conscience, officials want to determine what constitutes the town’s elusive “Western character” and how to maintain it.

The first step is a pair of hands-on workshops Monday — at noon and 6 p.m. at the Grand View Lodge — during which participants will be asked to channel their inner preservationist and offer their views on what makes Jackson unique. That will give planners a sense of how to safeguard the community’s heritage.

“It’s more interactive,” Town Planning Director Tyler Sinclair said. “People can come and really be involved, instead of talked to.”

The process has two distinct goals: devising regulations for the Town Square zone, which have not been updated since 1994, and creating broader regulations to promote historic preservation throughout Teton County. Because the idea of historic preservation is often entwined with that of Western character, and because both lack a solid regulatory underpinning, the processes are being combined.

Nore Winter, owner of Winter and Company, will be the primary workshop leader. Sinclair called Winter “one of the leading experts around historic preservation.” As his consulting firm begins to draft regulations for Town Square and historic preservation in general, public input from the workshops will form the basis for its work.

Winter will give an overview of historic preservation around the country and run through a “smorgasbord” of methods used in other places, Sinclair said.

He will also explain the role of preservation here, but it isn’t much to speak of, hence the push for new regulations. The Teton County Historic Preservation Board has the authority to request 90-day delays of demolition permits for buildings it deems historically significant, but beyond that the board is toothless.

During this part of the workshops, participants will be split into groups and asked about areas in Teton County they consider historic, why they are worth preserving and possible ways to do so.

Next, the subject will switch to Town Square. Despite the importance of the downtown blocks, they are surprisingly vulnerable to redevelopment that could alter the look and feel of the area. As Principal Planner Paul Anthony said, “You could paint those buildings any color you want,” even hot pink.

Participants will be asked to describe, in a word, what “Western character” means to them. They’ll also be asked to describe it visually by pointing to physical features in photos of buildings to show what they do and don’t like.

“The hope with these types of exercises,” Sinclair said, “is it takes it out of planner speak, where it’s hopefully a lot more visual.”

The feedback will be compiled and translated back into “planner speak” — the specifics of architecture that equate to Western character, whatever that means.

Contact Cody Cottier at 732-5911 or town@jhnewsandguide.com.

Cody Cottier covers town and state government. He grew up with a view of the Olympic Mountains, and after graduating Washington State University he traded it for a view of the Tetons. Odds are the mountains are where you’ll find him when not on deadline.

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