The Jackson Planning Commission will try Thursday to iron out final details for the future of Snow King Mountain Resort, months after talks stalled.
The commission’s analysis is the first step in resurrecting public review of the resort’s master plan amendment, the first update in two decades to the document that guides development of the Town Hill. The first round of tense negotiations between the ski resort and the town faltered in February, and since then resort officials have revised the master plan to concede to a long list of amendments the Town Council requested.
Perhaps the most significant is a requirement that the Snow King Resort Master Association — an HOA-like group of property owners in the resort district — levy a 1% fee on all commercial transactions within the district. That money would be used to fund the responsibilities laid out in the master plan, but it’s still unclear exactly what those responsibilities are.
During the resort’s first attempt to update its master plan last year, ambiguities in the original document led to an impasse between those who believe that the association, known as SKRMA, failed to fulfill its purpose in funding the ski area and those who argue it was never meant to fund the ski area at all.
“Looking back at the original plan, it’s sort of like looking at the Bible,” said Snow King watchdog Skye Schell, executive director of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance. “Everybody can pick out a different verse or have a different interpretation.”
The importance of resolving that confusion is one point on which everyone can agree. Resort officials are as eager as anyone to lay out, in no uncertain terms, what is expected of the association in the new master plan.
“We very much don’t want to have a situation in the future where different people have different opinions about whether we’re in compliance or not,” said Jeff Golightly, a Snow King representative. “We want it to be crystal clear.”
It’s also unclear whether the 1% fee will apply to condo sales. As of now the resort does not intend for it to, but Schell and others argue that the condo tax is the key to keeping Snow King financially viable, because “that’s probably a much bigger chunk of money than 1% on hamburgers and lift tickets.”
Snow King Manager Ryan Stanley wrote in a letter to the Planning Commission that he expects the fee would generate between $250,000 and $500,000 annually. When reviewing the first master plan amendment, the Town Council asked that SKRMA maintain a minimum balance of $500,000 to meet its obligations.
In another addition to the new version of the master plan, the resort wants to build about 90 units of employee housing on Vine Street, along the hillside that leads up to the Snow King Hotel. The problem is, the street is so narrow that it would be difficult if not impossible to fit both a sidewalk and housing in the space.
Greg Ogle, a partner with KDG Capital, which owns the Snow King Hotel separately from the ski hill, noted that every foot it has to dig deeper into the hillside will drastically increase the price of construction.
“At some point,” he said, “it’s going to become cost-prohibitive to build these apartments.”
The commissioners agreed, however, that if they changed Vine to a one-way street there would be enough room. Most argued it would be worth exploring options to fit all the necessary infrastructure.
“If that’s the difference between employee housing and not having employee housing,” Commissioner Chris Beaulieu said, “then 5 feet shouldn’t really matter.”
The Planning Commission will also consider whether Snow King should be allowed to use dormitories to meet its housing requirements. When the requirements were adopted in 2018, officials prohibited the use of dormitories to meet them, opting instead to require housing fit for year-round workers.
While reviewing the first Snow King master plan amendment, the Town Council maintained that Snow King should not be exempt from the prohibition on dormitories. Nevertheless the commissioners may recommend allowing dormitories for some percentage of required housing.
Community Development Director Tyler Sinclair said he expects the commissioners will complete their review Thursday, in a meeting beginning at 5:30 p.m. at Town Hall. If they do, they’ll pass along their recommendations for the Town Council to consider.