Traffic builds up at the Broadway intersection with Highway 22 at rush hour during the end of a summer weekday. Recent studies have shown that as much as 60% of the county’s traffic originates outside its borders. To avert or slow the expansion of the county’s state roads and ease traffic, many political candidates are supporting some improved system of public transportation although they don’t agree on how to pay for it.

Transit planning to be bid out

The town and county are abandoning the pursuit of a transportation planner in favor of farming out specific projects to consultant teams.

Elected officials agreed in August 2017 to hire a planner to implement the 2015 Integrated Transportation Plan. In December of that year planner Tom Newland was hired, but he resigned months later, in March 2018. Since then the position has been vacant.

Three projects — updating the Integrated Transportation Plan, organizing a framework for formation of a regional transportation planning organization, and crafting a transportation demand management program — are likely to be contracted to consultants in the next year.

Funding that had been earmarked for the transportation planner salary will be shifted to the consultants.

Growth study set for summer

Officials agreed Monday to a $127,052 contract to review and adjust the 2012 Teton County/Jackson Comprehensive Plan. The “growth management program” will evaluate how the county is doing on goals like locating 60% of growth in complete neighborhoods or housing 65% of the workforce locally.

“Is this a complete rewrite of the comp plan? I would say no,” Town Planner Tyler Sinclair said. “This is an update on the comp plan. It’s a check-in.”

The process will be led by Logan Simpson, the same group that led the original comp plan drafting. It will be aided by Alex Norton, the former town and county long-range planner who left last year to begin his own firm, OPS Strategies.

The audit will include analysis of trends and public outreach. The goal is to adopt amendments to the comprehensive plan, which could include corrective actions and new strategies, by February.

Melody roofs go bad

Town and county officials grappled Monday with how to handle failing roofs at Melody Ranch Townhomes.

“The decision that’s before you guys today is if giving equity to the deed-restricted owners is something you’d consider,” homeowner Brian Modena said, “because it’s not an out-of-pocket expense and it helps us solve this problem.”

Eight homes in the complex are restricted as affordable, three are currently affordable but their restrictions will expire in a number of years, and 13 are free-market units. The units share roofs, with the repair project estimated to cost as much as $157,000 per unit and require owners to move out for several months of construction.

“I don’t know if we’re going to get through another winter,” Modena said.

Because the Jackson/Teton County Housing Department’s deed restrictions on the eight units restrict the value of affordable units, affordable homeowners would struggle to leverage the value of their homes to finance the roof repair.

Elected officials voted to increase the value of the restricted units in order to allow owners to finance the repairs. They voted to raise the homes’ value to the cost of constructing a new roof, by up to $160,000 each (including $10,000 for temporary relocation costs during construction). The units can also be designated “workforce” rather than affordable, which means they must be occupied by full-time local workers rather than setting an income limit for buyers of the home. The town and county also directed the housing department to negotiate to purchase deed restrictions from owners of homes with restrictions that are set to end.

The solution aims to allow the owners to find private financing for the roof repair without public funds, staff said. Officials argued, though, there is still a “cost to the public” for modifying the restriction.

“When we talk about increasing the value, and with the workforce restriction, that means fewer people will be able to afford to buy these,” Councilor Arne Jorgensen said. “Those are members of the public, those are members of our community that also matter in this discussion.”

With the commitment to change the restrictions, the HOA plans to next pursue financing and a bid from a contractor.

Contact Allie Gross at 732-7063 or

Allie Gross covers Teton County government. Originally from the Chicago area, she joined the News&Guide in 2017 after studying politics and Spanish at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

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