Teton County will not change course in neighborhood planning for northern South Park, likely setting the community up to see three possible designs for the area in the next month or so.

But when those “alternatives” will be revealed and when the public will be able to comment isn’t set yet.

The decision to the stay the course came Monday, after Commissioners Mark Barron and Greg Epstein had lobbied to alter the process. They worried about not using the experts on a seven-member steering committee to their full potential and possibly short cutting input from the area’s two landowners: the Gill and Lockhart families.

Barron told the News&Guide on Tuesday morning that he was “disappointed.”

“There’s two property owners there. It’s easy in a public process to forget that those are real people, those are real families, that’s their land,” he said. “I think it’s the respectful thing to give them the plans before they’re released to the public and take their feedback. Without them there is no northern South Park.”

Barron and Epstein wanted to give the steering committee, which includes Kelly Lockhart and Nikki Gill, three “alternatives” — possible designs for the area, essentially — before they were released to the public. That would have altered the process set out in a contract with the county’s consultant, Opticos Design Inc.

But the Teton County Board of County Commissioners chose not to change anything in the process after receiving an email from Gill. She argued against changing the process and causing further delay in a project that’s already behind schedule.

“Please do not delay,” Gill wrote in her email. “There is no need for an additional contract, additional scope of work, additional money, additional time. Families needed housing five years ago. For them, for our community, maintain forward motion.”

Eventually most of the Jackson Town Council, which was invited to make a recommendation as a co-funder of the plan, decided against changing the process. Ditto the county commissioners, though there was no formal vote.

Epstein didn’t back down fully, but changed his tune after reading Gill’s letter and other comments.

“I still feel like getting feedback and comments from the stakeholders before the whole plan goes to the public would make sense just to allow the public to see the inside baseball,” Epstein told the News&Guide.

A public workshop to review the “alternatives” was originally planned for the first week in June. But those options have not been released, and Teton County Planning Director Chris Neubecker, whose department is overseeing the planning, said he expects that will happen, along with a public workshop to review them, in mid-July. The final proposed plan, Neubecker said, won’t likely be ready until the end of August.

Contact Billy Arnold at 732-7063 or barnold@jhnewsandguide.com.

Teton County Reporter

Previously the Scene editor, Billy Arnold made the switch to the county beat where he's interested in exploring Teton County as a model for the rest of the West. When he can, he still writes about art, music and whatever else suits his fancy.

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