To locals worried the town of Jackson could lose its unique flavor and Western character: Fear not, there are people working hard on its preservation.
Town staff are in the midst of a process designed to ensure that future renovations and new development remain consistent with the past and current character and design of downtown Jackson.
The project, which has been ongoing for more than 18 months, was recently outlined by town Planning Director Paul Anthony at a Planning Commission meeting. Anthony said he hopes to have the issue in front of the Jackson Town Council by mid-October.
Anthony emphasized several key aspects. Among them is creating a Jackson Historic Register to ensure certain buildings and homes are preserved in their original character. Also included are updates to zoning regulations for the Town Square area that would involve strict building guidelines and land development regulations, all in the name of preserving the Western character of Jackson.
Regarding the Jackson Historic Register, the Planning Commission is looking at two types of listings. The first would be “Landmark” properties with “exceptional” historic significance to the town and its history, according to Marcia Boyle, an associate planner/designer with consultants Winter & Co. The second designation would be “Registered Historic Resource,” or buildings with “general historic significance” to the town.
Buildings and structures can be nominated to be listed in the Jackson Historic Register by the owners themselves, a Town Council member or the Teton County Historic Preservation Board. Those nominated for the Registered Historic Resource list would need to have the property owner’s approval, whereas those receiving the Landmark status would be listed on the register regardless of an owner’s wishes.
But don’t feel too bad for owners whose property could be listed as a Landmark site, even if against their desires, as the town is looking to create a strong incentive program — the word “incentives” was stressed repeatedly throughout the presentation at the commission meeting — for Landmark property owners.
Those incentives could come in multiple forms.
One, a federal income tax credit for inclusion on the list of Certified National Register of Historic Places, which is a tax credit for a percentage of the cost to repair a historic place.
Two, the potential for donating a conservation easement, in which the property owner would donate to a qualifying nonprofit an easement on a certain portion of the property or a percentage of the development rights. That would result in the nonprofit shouldering some of the burden of maintenance and renovation of the property in accordance with historical standards and the property owner receiving a tax deduction based upon the loss of value of the property owed to the easement.
Third, a property owner could allow a qualifying nonprofit, such as the newly created Teton Historic Preservation Foundation, to purchase such an easement, and the property owner could gain similar benefits.
Lastly, there are rehabilitation grants or low-interest loans that could come from private entities or even from the town of Jackson itself.
Other possible incentives would include waiving setback requirements to allow a historic structure to be moved forward into a previously restricted area so that the property owner could build a structure behind it on the property.
As for the land development regulation changes, Anthony said in videos the town posted on its website that they have been made necessary as the Comprehensive Plan, last updated in 2012, is again being updated. Maintaining Jackson’s Western character is both important to the community, known through public input, and is also part of the updated comp plan. The 2012 plan doesn’t necessarily refer to Western character, though the updated version will, he said.
New LDR zones are being created downtown and include Town Square and areas immediately surrounding it — going from “Town Square,” “Urban Commercial” zone and “Downtown Core” zone to “Town Square-1,” “Town Square-2” and “Downtown Core-2.”
Town Square-1, or TS-1, is just that: the Town Square.
Town Square-2, or TS-2, is the area immediately to the north of the square, bounded on the north by Gill Avenue, Deloney Avenue on the south, and Cache and Center streets on the east and west.
Outside those two areas, Downtown Core-2, DC-2, will span from Gill Avenue on the north side, Pearl Avenue to the south, and Willow and Milward streets to the east and west.
Noré Winter, of Winter & Co., explained in one of the three explanatory videos on the town’s website that new Western character guidelines will apply more rigidly in the TS-1 and TS-2 zones. The blocks in DC-2 will still be expected to “convey Western character,” but the guidelines will be a bit more broad and less rigid.
As Winter said, areas TS-1 and TS-2 are central to visitors’ experience, so many of the guidelines are geared toward pedestrian-friendliness.
The proposed guidelines in TS-2 would include allowing increased building height, from 35 feet tall to 42 feet, and possibly even up to 46 feet with a pitched roof, Planning Director Anthony explained in the third of the three videos on the town website.
However, Anthony said, it’s “very important that if there was a third story allowed that that third story be set back by 20 feet from the two stories below it.” That importance is because the setback would minimize the impact of shade on the streets and to the pedestrians using them. The additional third-floor height is allowable in TS-2 because of its zoning to allow lodging, he said.
In TS-1, the goal (as in the other areas) is to preserve Western character and provide an excellent experience for pedestrians downtown. The entire TS-1 zone would have covered walkways with wooden boardwalks and furnishing zones, which could allow for bus stops, benches, trees or other features.
There would also be strict guidelines for storefronts, including minimum and maximum allowances for window coverage on the first and second stories.
The minimum allowances for the first floor would be 50% windows, and the maximum 70%.
The second-floor minimum would be 20% and maximum 30%.
The reason for those allowances is in keeping with the old-time Western character, where storefront windows were designed to allow passersby to see what lay inside any store or business.
The reason for the maximum allowance, Anthony said, is that they learned through public input that people don’t want to see modern-looking storefronts that are 100% or near 100% windows.
Wide sidewalks with a “vibrant mixed-use area with a variety of uses” are also in the guidelines for all three areas, according to the videos.
In TS-1 and TS-2, the building frontage is all limited to Town Square, shop fronts and lodging, though lodging, such as hotels and motels, is allowed only in TS-2, not TS-1.
In the DC-2 zone, the pedestrian frontages would be restricted to either covered walkways or “trees in grates” with trees spaced at least 30 feet apart.
In addition to shop front and lodging, the newly created DC-2 zone would also allow for stand-alone residential housing, as it expands out from the inner-downtown area, Anthony said.
Buildings in DC-2 could also be up to three stories, though also with a 20-foot setback on the third story.
Anthony, in outlining the time frame going forward, said he hopes the commission will finalize plans at its regular meeting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday and present the plans to the Town Council for approval on first reading at an Oct. 19 meeting. That would allow the plans to be finally approved on third reading at the Dec. 7 or Dec. 21 regular council meetings.
“We’d like to get this done with this current council,” Anthony said.
He noted the length of the process and that the council will have a different makeup at the beginning of the year, so the commission would then have to essentially start the process over with a new council.