A planning manager from Vail starts Tuesday as the new Teton County planning and building director.
Chris Neubecker brings more than 21 years of experience in Colorado’s public sector, including planning work in mountain towns Breckenridge and Vail. He said there are some similarities between Teton County’s planning issues and what he has faced in those towns, such as developing plans to preserve open spaces for scenic and ecological purposes and a shortage of affordable housing.
For example, he suggested Teton County could benefit from a similar model to the Vail InDeed program, in which the town pays property owners to place deed restrictions on their units as a cheaper alternative to building new units.
“It guarantees the property stays in the local workforce, rather than being sold to second homeowners or vacation rental property owners,” he said.
Still, Neubecker has picked up on the differences between Vail and Jackson Hole.
“Jackson has a longer history, and it has its roots closer to that Western heritage,” Neubecker said. “Whereas Vail was founded as a ski resort in 1962. It doesn’t have the depth of history that Jackson has. It’s a very different feeling.
“Vail is a resort community. People come for the resort feeling, and for that European flair of Vail Village. In contrast, Jackson is more of a Western feel and people seek that out, and they seek out the open spaces and the vistas.”
Because Breckenridge and Vail are towns, not counties, planning in those communities is more focused on development and redevelopment of properties.
“Whereas in Teton County, I think it’s less about development and more about protecting the character of the land and the open spaces, in many cases, focusing development into the towns and into areas that are already served by infrastructure,” he said.
Neubecker will oversee the Teton County planning department’s staff and services, like land use, development permits, long-range planning, building permits and inspections, and zoning enforcement. He’s accredited by the Green Building Certification Institute and the American Institute of Certified Planners.
“The thing that attracted me to Teton County was the variety of planning issues the community is facing, not only developing affordable housing and smart growth and ensuring new development is in the right location, but also the challenge with protecting the land and the wildlife that make the area so special,” Neubecker said.
He said he was looking forward to working with passionate and engaged citizens.
“The thing I’m most excited about is meeting the people of Teton County and Jackson, the people that are involved in the community, that are passionate about the community and making Teton County an even greater place to live and to visit,” he said.
The planning director role has been vacant since Oct. 1, 2018, when Tyler Sinclair — formerly the joint town and county planning director — departed to focus solely on planning for the town of Jackson.
Since then Teton County has had an internal interim director and has hired three temporary planning directors through GovTemps, a national recruiting and interim staffing firm. Temporary directors were contracted at a rate of $84 an hour. At that rate the county spent $107,764 as of Aug. 20 on the contracts, according to the County Clerk’s Office.