The seven-member committee tasked with advising Teton County on the ongoing neighborhood planning process for northern South Park didn’t reach any firm conclusions Thursday and Friday.

Instead it spent four hours over two days brainstorming what should be considered when the town- and county-funded consultant Opticos Design Inc. and its team come up with three “alternatives,” or options, for how northern South Park could be developed. There will also be a fourth “no action alternative” that will lay out what could happen if the area is developed under existing zoning.

Open space, pathways and transportation were all discussed.

But the most consistent conversation concerned density and how many units of housing could be developed in the area just south of High School Road. The steering committee did not, however, land on a set of numbers for the county and its consultants to study in the “alternatives” that will be presented in coming weeks.

Town and county planners and elected officials operate under a framework that places a theoretical cap on new development. While the number of new homes built countywide could exceed that cap, which Senior Long Range Planner Kristi Malone told the committee would be reached after 2,148 units are built, the ceiling is in place to encourage development decisions to be made carefully.

Where each of the scenarios will fall against that cap remains to be seen.

Some committee members seemed concerned about not settling on a guiding number.

“I was thinking that there was going to be an overall density that was going to come out of this meeting today,” northern South Park landowner Kelly Lockhart said toward the end of a Friday meeting, “or a range that would guide the three scenarios, and perhaps layout of those and phasing of those.”

Bill Collins, a former Teton County planning director who, like Lockhart, is serving on the steering committee, also worried that the conversation was “scattershot.”

But Alex Steinberger, a partner at Cascadia Partners, the firm working with Opticos on analytics and modeling, told the committee he felt the brainstorm was successful.

“I think this is great input,” he said, “but I do this for a living, so I’m used to parsing people’s scattershot ideas. This is how the brainstorming process works. It’s not usually linear or focused on the discrete topics that you intend it to be, but that’s OK.”

The committee also tangled with what to publicize with the “alternatives” and what to avoid.

Per Opticos’ design proposal the three “alternatives” will explain how each option meets “the vision for the area,” lay out urban design options and identify “potential land use patterns with varying density, layout and affordability options.”

They will also come with three analytical models that will lay out “fiscal, environmental, transportation, affordability, job creation and infrastructure impacts” of each alternative.

But unlike the model developed by the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Cascadia and Opticos’ models may not include information about profits and the value of land to landowners.

The models will compute the residual land value — a calculation that estimates the value of developed land — of the 225 acres being considered for development in northern South Park. Doing so is intended to figure whether each scenario would make the landowners better off than the “no action alternative.” But those numbers may not be made public.

Steering committee member Laura Bonich worried about that part of the model being misinterpreted, and Steinberger said that aspect is really intended to “judge which way the needle is moving” and not say exactly how much money the Gills and Lockharts could make from developing their land.

Those values, Steinberger said, should be interpreted as “Does it make the landowner better off?”

And with that as a backdrop, he said, the models will help “look at these other community values that matter for the broader community and know that if we chose this scenario at the very least it would be financially beneficial to the landowner over what they can do today.”

Those “alternatives” and models should be presented to the community between now and the end of May.

After they are, the public will have an opportunity to weigh in.

Then the county and its consultant will go back to the drawing board and refine the alternatives into one draft neighborhood plan, which will be reviewed again by the public and town and county planning commissions.

Then the Teton County Board of County Commissioners will choose whether to give it a final seal of approval.

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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(1) comment

Judd Grossman

We must respect our buildout cap. I would prefer more open space and less people

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