Central Wyoming College is moving ahead with plans to build its Jackson campus. But school officials hope it will be in a new location.
The school, which purchased two lots on Veronica Lane in anticipation of the new facility, is now pursuing an opportunity to buy 2 acres just south of Jackson Hole High School off High School Road.
“As we started to design … this other site came along,” Director of Marketing Lori Ridgway said. “It was just perfect.”
The new campus will support 200 students in the nursing and culinary and hospitality programs, as well as cultural events like October’s Nations Within a Nation series. The facility’s 18,000 square feet — 17,000 of which will be usable — will include science labs, offices and a commercial kitchen.
On a 2017 specific purpose excise tax ballot Teton County voters approved $3.82 million in for land, design and construction. After approval of the SPET the college bought the lots on Veronica Lane and began the planning with Jorgensen Associates. It applied to rezone the land to public/semipublic, the designation for uses like schools and hospitals.
The rezone application for the Veronica Lane location set off discussions about the ability of the subdivision’s infrastructure to support such a large facility and created delays.
“I think it’s OK to take the time,” Mayor Pete Muldoon said during a November Town Council meeting in which the council voted to delay the rezone decision.
The new parcel would be bought from Leeks Canyon Ranch LLC, through which Elizabeth and Kelly Lockhart run the Lockhart Cattle Company ranch, from which the parcel would be cut.
“We had lots of meetings to what we would need to do with parking and all of the needs for the property,” Ridgway said. “We were in the middle of those things when we found out about the new property.”
The college’s planning process was in the schematic design phase, but because the new location is larger than the in-town one, the plans should require little to no adapting in the move, Vice President of Administrative Services Willie Noseep said. The High School Road lot should be able to accommodate the building as planned and have more parking.
The potential move to the High School Road property comes at the same time the Wyoming Community College Commission named the Jackson campus its No. 1 priority for funding, approving a $7.57 million funding request in the 2020 Wyoming Legislature. That request would be coupled with the SPET money approved by Teton County voters approved and funds from the college.
Several steps remain to be taken before the funding request and purchase come to fruition. The State Building Commission is set to consider the request in July, and, if it’s approved, the Joint Appropriations Committee and the Legislature will take it up during February’s budget session.
The community college commission’s backing was important to CWC officials.
“We want a facility in Jackson,” Ridgway said. “It’s the best thing for the state. That’s why we pursued it with the commission.”
For the college to purchase the land on the south end of town, the county will need to approve the same rezoning to public/semipublic. Planners will consider several findings, including if the college is consistent with the land development regulations, if it will improve the implementation of the Comprehensive Plan and if it is consistent with county services like transportation, Planning Manager Susan Johnson said.
School officials are waiting to sell the Veronica Lane property until the rezoning process is complete. Noseep expects the purchase of the new plot to be complete by February or March, provided the rezoning is successful. The first step in that process will be a preapplication conference with the county in late July or August. School officials said they hope to stick to their original timeline of being done sometime in 2021, but Ridgway wasn’t sure if the new purchase would push that date back.
Though some planning costs have been incurred already, the college intends to ensure the entire SPET goes toward the things voters approved, rather than additional planning or administrative costs associated with the new land purchase.
“Basically CWC has been taking care of the costs,” Noseep said. “We’ve kind of kept those costs separate.”