In the middle of crafting a solution, four members of a steering committee hand-picked by county commissioners have split off and said the path they are on isn’t viable.
The Northern South Park steering committee is advising the county on creating a neighborhood plan for the area around Jackson Hole High School where anywhere from 100 to more than 2,000 homes could be built.
The intentions and deep expertise of those four steering committee members are respected. Their words carry weight.
But it’s too soon to squash the process, and having four people split off from a seven-member committee undermines the spirit of the endeavor. It’s been over a decade since a parcel as large as northern South Park has been in play, and it needs to be planned appropriately for the decades to come.
Let the county, with its consultant, finish compiling public comment and drafting final alternatives before throwing them out.
While there are serious questions about the land values involved, landowner Nikki Gill makes it clear that the four committee members don’t speak for at least one of the landowners.
The process has been rocky and fraught. But when the stakes are as high as they are with dreams of workforce housing, multi-million dollar land values and a call for massive public subsidies, that’s to be expected.
At the same time the four letter writers appear ready to fold up the tent, there’s movement on a real estate transfer tax with a legislative committee voting in favor of drafting its own bill. If eventually approved, such a tax could generate millions of dollars to build local workforce housing.
Infill and redevelopment in the town of Jackson using existing infrastructure is a worthy pursuit and should be pushed wholeheartedly no matter what happens in South Park.
A regional workforce housing strategy with accompanying transit service? Yes, as it’s long overdue and a proven concept in other mountain towns facing similar workforce housing shortages.
But first, Teton County leaders need to buckle down and do the hard work — and yes, pay consultants and put money aside to subsidize projects — to create modern solutions at a scale that can start to solve our housing crisis, which will take an all-of-the-above approach.