Sweetwater renovations

John Holland reinstalls the plaque from the Teton County Historic Preservation Board that hung on Coe Cabin, better known as the Sweetwater Restaurant, before construction began on the 104-year-old building over a year ago. Holland lauded the town of Jackson at a recent meeting for new historic preservation guidelines and said he wished the incentives had been in place when he saved the Sweetwater Block

The Jackson Town Council approved a series of land development regulations Monday aimed at preserving the historic integrity and “Western character” of the downtown area around Town Square.

The more-than-18-month process culminated in several unanimous votes Monday night approving the new LDRs after a partnership between town staff, the Teton County Historic Preservation Board and consultants Winter & Co. led to initial drafts that were pored over and tweaked by the Planning Commission and Town Council.

Ultimately the versions the council approved do not require an involuntary “landmark” status under which buildings deemed historically important or integral to the Town Square area’s character could be put on a newly created Jackson Historic Register without their owners’ permission. The designation would have compelled the owners to maintain their buildings as historic properties. That option, which was included on Town Planner Paul Anthony’s initial presentation to the Planning Commission and Town Council in September, faced steep opposition from downtown property owners; they instead pressed Anthony and the council to create strong enough incentives that owners would voluntarily be included on the historic register and want to keep up their properties, rather than be forced to do so.

Also included among the requirements of the LDRs are several guidelines for upkeep and renovations to buildings and properties that are accepted for inclusion on the Jackson Historic Register, which will be managed by the Teton County Historic Preservation Board.

More specifically, the LDRs create three downtown zones: Town Square-1, or TS-1, which is Town Square itself; Town Square-2, TS-2, which is the area immediately to the north of the square, bounded by Gill and Deloney avenues to the north and south; and Cache and Center streets on the east and west.

The third area, Downtown Core-2, DC-2, is a zone that more or less wraps around those areas and expands outside of the immediate downtown zones. The DC-2 guidelines are more broad and less rigid than those in TS-1 and TS-2, where the focus is on pedestrian-friendliness and visitors’ experience, and the guidelines are thus more strict.

For example, in TS-1, the entire area is to maintain wooden boardwalks, and there are minimum and maximum allowances for window coverage on the first and second stories of TS-1 buildings, among other guidelines.

The reason for the window allowances, Anthony said, is because planners learned through public input that people don’t want massive, modern-looking storefronts that are almost entirely window-covered.

At the council’s last meeting on the LDRs in late October, they heard from a procession of property owners pushing for incentives rather than compulsion to align with the upkeep requirements. On Monday the council heard from but one woman who pushed back against the easing of housing mitigation requirements for historic properties, saying it’s “a terrible backslide,” though acknowledging pressure from state lawmakers in Cheyenne.

Mayor Pete Muldoon agreed, saying, “This is the lesser of two evils. I think it is a decision we have little choice but to make, but which will not be good for our community.

“I’m disappointed that it’s a decision we feel we need to make [to appease state lawmakers], but I understand why we’re making it. I’m saddened by it.”

Contact Tim Woods at 732-5911 or town@jhnewsandguide.com.

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