Northern South Park

Board of County Commissioners Chairwoman Natalia D. Macker and Jackson Mayor Pete Muldoon listen to a joint information meeting at Town Hall.

The town and county seem to have come to agreement: They want some sort of neighborhood plan for northern South Park.

But on Monday elected officials sparred over whether to plan the area jointly.

“We could make a motion and do a neighborhood plan tomorrow,” Commissioner Greg Epstein said, noting attorneys had advised commissioners they could move ahead without the town.

With the Gill family proposing a large, market-based development targeted at housing the local workforce in the area, Epstein is spurring the board to move swiftly. (Turn to page 7A for more details on the project.)

“What we’re trying to do is bring the town along and say, ‘Do you want to be part of this joint planning effort?’” he said.

Most councilors answered in the affirmative.

“I think it would be very problematic on a lot of levels to have the county go ahead without the town involved on northern South Park,” Jackson Town Councilor Jonathan Schechter said.

The discussion came as the Town Council and Teton County Board of County Commissioners near the finish line on an update to the 2012 Teton County/Jackson Comprehensive Plan, which lays out a development vision for the community. Officials were supposed to review a draft update Monday before passing it to the planning commission for review.

Ultimately, they punted the can down the road with the conversation Monday showing that can is full of all kinds of planning-related worms.

It started as a debate about whether language in the draft plan would move planning efforts for northern South Park quickly enough. Commissioners Epstein and Mark Barron argued that language proposed in the draft would be a barrier to doing so.

Commissioner Mark Newcomb advocated sticking with the language in the revised plan. Vice Mayor Hailey Morton Levinson more or less shared Newcomb’s position, though she also recalled earlier meetings at which the town and county asked to make planning efforts in northern South Park more of a priority.

“I’m now hearing the opposite,” she said. “I just hope that we’re all … on the same page.”

The conversation turned to joint planning after Epstein said his piece about the county going it alone on northern South Park. He has been advocating that since early April, often in tandem with Barron.

But Councilor Jim Stanford said, “To do it right, to me, is to move forward jointly. You don’t have to be a planning guru to know that the history of Jackson Hole is littered with failed attempts to develop northern South Park — or to plan for the development of northern South Park.”

Planners managed to recenter the conversation on the comp plan.

“It seems like we’re all looking at the same language and reading something completely differently,” County Planning Director Chris Neubecker said.

Elected officials came to an agreement on a compromise. Planning staff will take another crack at the comp plan update, this time with a fine-tooth comb for the language about northern South Park.

Contact Billy Arnold at 732-7063 or

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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