NSP land donation

In a surprise announcement Thursday, Nikki Gill said her family plans to donate 45 acres along High School Road to the Trust for Public Land for 300 deed-restricted homes and public parks.

“We take great care ... to reach out and engage the community.” — Chris Deming trust for public land

Adding a new twist to planning for housing in northern South Park, the Gill family is working on what could be the largest land donation ever in Teton County for affordable housing.

“Recognizing this as new information to all of you, my family is ready to donate 45 acres [to the] Trust for Public Land for 300 permanently deed-restricted homes and public parks,” Nikki Gill told the Northern South Park steering committee Thursday.

Thursday’s meeting was supposed to be about gathering feedback on a proposal for 1,200 new units on the northern half of 225 acres in South Park, with 70% to be permanently deed-restricted for local affordability.

Now, new calculations will have to factor in the new value added by the Gills’ donation.

In exchange for the land donation, valued at around $9 million based on consultants’ estimated $200,000 per acre, the Gills want to see their suburban-zoned lots preserved and moved south where it makes more sense to build the more expensive market-rate homes.

Upon hearing of the land donation, some steering committee members were quick to embrace it.

“I find Nikki’s offer of a quid pro quo of a 45-acre donation [of] land along High School Road in exchange for taking that existing suburban zoning and flipping it south ... to be very compatible with the concepts that [the consultant] is describing,” committee member Hans Flinch said.

“There might be a little bit of a meeting of the minds there,” Flinch said. “I kind of encourage county and consultant planning to chase that one down and not let it go because I think it’s a really generous offer. Three hundred affordable units is nothing to scoff at.”

County and planning consultants indeed might need to do a bit of chasing, or at least catching up.

The Gills’ donation will surely impact the overall cost of the housing project, but no specifics were provided for the 69-page proposal from Berkeley-based consultants Opticos Design Inc.

Now a new and major partner, working quietly with the Gills for the past several months, will be responsible for seeing out the family’s vision.

The recipient?

The Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit, says it has the experience to manage complex arrangements to make way for affordable and workforce housing while also creating public parks and preserving open space. This project could double Jackson’s existing county park stock, according to Chris Deming, the Trust’s senior project manager for the Northern Rockies.

“We’re brought in when things are complicated, big, or audacious,” Deming told the Jackson Hole Daily. “The donation is unprecedented in the county, probably in the state.”

While the move is the first of its kind, Deming said that with so many potential stakeholders — including public planning and building services, schools and parks, and housing developers and managers — the Trust can act as a bridge to help the community meet its goals.

The Trust for Public Land has a history creating parks in Jackson Hole. In 2012, the nonprofit began working with the local community to plan and restore soaking pools and a 100-acre riverfront park at Astoria Hot Springs, previously held by a private developer.

As for the host of potential proposals and the capital campaign that would be necessary to create housing in northern South Park, the Trust doesn’t yet have a plan.

But they plan to include the public.

“If the community doesn’t want it, we’re not going to move forward with it,” Deming said.

Nikki Gill called for the next step to be a workshop with the Teton County Board of County Commissioners to move on the land offer and request to switch the family’s suburban lots south, which would normally require a lengthy approval process.

“I believe we can solve some of our housing needs in this community with land — free land to reduce the public subsidies substantially with millions and millions of dollars,” Gill said in her announcement.

At the beginning of the meeting, before Gill’s announcement, Kelly Lockhart, northern South Park landowner and steering committee member, panned the consultants’ assumptions. For example, he said the land value estimates were too low, making the financial outcome “fatally flawed.”

Steering committee members and elected officials have been concerned about whether the northern South Park plan would be acceptable to the two landowning families — the Lockharts and the Gills — because nothing can happen without their support.

By the end of Thursday’s meeting, Lockhart appeared prepared to keep going.

“I do think there is a next step [but] I think it may look substantially different than what we were given today,” Lockhart said in the end. “As I said when I started my conversation, we’ve been at the table a long time. We remain at the table, and we’ll continue to see this through until it has an outcome that hopefully is good for the community and good for our family.”

Contact Sophia Boyd-Fliegel at sbf@jhnewsandguide or 307-733-2047.

Sophia covers county politics, housing, and workforce issues. A Pacific Coast devotee, she grew up in Washington, studied in California and has worked in Oregon and Alaska.

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(1) comment

Judd Grossman

Density bonuses for deed restricted housing in the commercial corridor is also free land. Northern South Park should consist of dense, workforce deed restricted apartments on High School Road with very little parking to discourage new vehicles coming to the valley. Behind that should be clustered high end homes in exchange for significant dedicated open space on the rest of the property. There. I fixed it for you.

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