The Teton County Commission voted “no” on the Gills’ upzone proposal on Sept. 29.

First, we want to thank the Gills for opening this conversation and for their desire to help solve our community’s issues with their land.

We also want to thank our County Commission for voting “no.” Our county commissioners have a difficult responsibility to weigh each development proposal against the interests of our whole community, now and into the future.

This “no” vote gives our community a chance to say “yes” to something better: a neighborhood plan that ensures housing for all our local workers and answers critical infrastructure, water and conservation questions.

To be clear, the Gill family and the other landowners in Northern South Park already achieved a major policy change to allow growth on their lands.

Until last year, development in northern South Park wasn’t even on the table. The Comprehensive Plan clearly called for focusing new development in town, and in 2018 the Jackson Town Council approved a major upzone throughout town. But now the County Commission and Town Council are poised to approve significant growth outside our town limits on what is now scenic ranch land and open space, through the comp plan update. That is probably the biggest change in Jackson Hole’s growth policy in our lifetimes.

At the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance we can only support that shift if it’s done right: through a holistic neighborhood plan that addresses our core community values.

How do we make the most of the neighborhood plan?

We engage the full range of our community members to develop a true understanding of our community’s needs and vision for Northern South Park.

We design a truly affordable neighborhood, with a variety of housing types (duplexes, town homes, condos, apartments and some single-family homes) and permanent affordability linked to the full range of local incomes.

We identify and invest in key infrastructure to protect our own health and wellness and that of our ecosystem — like water quality.

We incentivize forward-thinking planning and design that encourages transportation choices, energy efficiency and green building.

We honor the landowners’ legacy of stewardship and ranching through permanent protection of working ranchland and wildlife habitat in South Park, ensuring that even as we grow, we protect this special place.

We believe the neighborhood plan can create a better opportunity for both the community and the landowners. We are excited to start that process now with the landowners and a wide range of community members. We hope to see you there.

Brooke Sausser is the land use planner at the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, a community organization that aims to protect wildlife, wild lands and the community character of Jackson Hole. Guest Shots are solely the opinion of their authors.

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