Budge Drive landslide stabilization

The town of Jackson has hired a consultant to update its regulations on hillside development, hoping to avoid landslides like the one on West Broadway that cost taxpayers millions of dollars to fix over the past few years.

The town of Jackson has hired a consultant to update regulations for building on steep slopes and unstable soil.

Simon Associates LLC will undertake the code revisions at a cost of about $53,000. The group’s principal geologist, David Simon, has for 15 years served as a consulting geologist to Draper City, Utah, after which Jackson officials want to loosely craft their own regulations.

The issue arose in the aftermath of the West Broadway landslide. Triggered by human activity, it began five years ago and eventually destroyed Budge Drive and Walgreens. Taxpayers were on the hook, ultimately paying the bulk of the $11.2 million cost to stabilize the hillside in what some have dubbed “a very expensive lesson.”

Since then, planners have deemed the town’s current approach to hillside development inadequate. They want to rethink its approach to avoid future multimillion-dollar mishaps.

One of the main problems, associate long-range planner Regan Kohlhardt said last fall, is that current standards for evaluating slope stability consider only the angle of the slope and ignore soil conditions, slide history and other factors.

Guidelines about how to mitigate potential soil disturbances aren’t specified, and requirements for geotechnical reports “are, quite frankly, nonexistent,” Kohlhardt said.

The Town Council approved Simon’s contract Aug. 19 and expects to consider new regulations by early 2020.

Between now and then, the company will compile geological data about the area to map potential hazards around town, draft a preliminary set of requirements for soil and slope reports, and work with a group of stakeholders to refine regulations.

After that, the final regulations will go to the town Planning Commission and then to the council for consideration in February.

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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