Teton County has once again approved Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s plan to allow winter employees to park in a Teton Village lot that has attracted controversy for years.
“We hope to open it in the next couple of days,” Bill Schreiber, the resort’s director of planning and engineering, told the Jackson Hole Daily on Wednesday.
The lot had been used for years as a construction staging area, attracting the ire of neighbors who gently fought the resort’s request to use it as a parking lot last winter and this season. But on Wednesday, Schreiber couldn’t rule out the possibility of asking to use it again next year.
“We really, really hope we won’t need it,” he said. “It is really just a COVID-related [issue] that’s driving this. All summer long we were hoping that we weren’t going to have to use it.”
The coronavirus’ delta variant changed that. And with the omicron variant on the horizon, Schreiber felt it was “prudent” in hindsight to ask for the go-ahead, giving employees another option to get to work.
“Let’s hope it’s just not needed again,” he said.
The approval means Jackson Hole Mountain Resort now has the green light to open up 150 parking spaces for its employees. Staff surveys have shown that some fear taking public transit amid the pandemic. Per the terms of its permit, the resort will encourage, but not require, workers to carpool; direct only essential employees to use the lot; lock the parking area between 6:30 p.m. and 6 a.m.; and have a parking attendant check employee IDs at the gate.
In November, some Teton County planning commissioners raised a fuss about the resort’s request for a permit to use the 2.72-acre parcel owned by Four Shadows LLC.
For about 20 years, county commissioners have allowed others to use the lot as a construction staging area time and time again under temporary use permits with two-or-so-year lifespans.
Neighbors have sued commissioners for approving the use, arguing that, while the permits may be deemed “temporary,” the continued use of the site is not. They lost in front of the Wyoming Supreme Court.
Schreiber recognized the parcel’s testy history — and neighbors’ concerns — last season when he did not rule out requesting to use the lot again during the 2021-22 season.
He did, however, say that he would request “something different” if the need arose.
But, when Schreiber brought the request back to the Teton County Planning Commission, which generally makes recommendations to the elected Teton County Board of County Commissioners, planning commissioners wondered why the resort was returning.
“I just don’t understand why the resort thinks it doesn’t have to worry about its neighbors anymore,” Teton County Planning Commission Chairman Kasey Mateosky said then.
“Is that just a guise to have more employee parking?” Teton County Planning Commissioner Alex Muromcew asked during that November meeting.
“No,” Schreiber said.
“It really comes down to doing as much as we can to try to keep from having a bunch of key employees get COVID,” he said. “We seriously hope we do not have to come back next year.”
When county commissioners got around to the issue late Tuesday afternoon, they voted unanimously and with little discussion to approve the plan. The conversation came after hours of other meetings about employee pay and water quality, and no one gave public comment.
Commissioner Mark Newcomb was the lone elected official to ask questions. Newcomb wondered whether the use would impact Teton Village’s ability to comply with an initiative aimed at curbing traffic to and from the Village — planners said no — and whether Jackson Hole Mountain Resort had installed a gate on the property. Planners said they had.
The county commissioners then voted 5-0 to give the resort the go-ahead to open the lot to its employees.