We all know the struggles business owners, working families, individuals and retirees face every year in Teton County. But, unfortunately, the past 18 months have put many of those issues on the front burner.
Housing is the topic this summer. Housing shortages have been here since the 1960s, maybe even earlier, and our community has been working to solve the issue for decades. However, this year, particularly this summer, it feels like it has reached a fever pitch. Businesses closed a few days a week. Staff appreciation days to give hardworking folks a day off to rest. The overall feel is that everyone is at a tipping point that has been coming for years and years.
Coupled with our housing needs is also a central transportation corridor that no longer works. Bumper-to-bumper commutes every day to get to Wilson that last for hours in the afternoon. How long for working individuals and families to get to Victor or Driggs or Tetonia, Idaho?
Our commuting numbers are growing exponentially. A few years ago we had 8,000 commuters a day into the valley; now, we are at over 10,500. What will happen in 2023 when the Snake River bridge and the 390/22 intersection begin construction? We are already experiencing not getting out of our workplaces in town due to traffic at a standstill on several roads. Are we going to be wholly gridlocked and immovable by 2023?
Our no-growth, “not in my backyard” attitude is not going to get us where we need to go. We are all guilty of it in varying degrees, and, if we want to keep our community a community, now is the time to start offering solutions and ideas.
There is not a silver bullet to housing issues in Jackson Hole and Teton County. Instead it will require private sector and public-private partnerships to create the housing when and where we need it.
Tomorrow, Aug. 19, the plans for South Park are going to be released. The challenge is not to get stuck thinking one idea is “perfect” and the only right one for this neighborhood. Unfortunately we continue to let perfection be the enemy of the good and stand in the way of housing and our future.
Instead let’s all commit to working together for housing solutions that will make a change for working individuals and families in Teton County. Twenty years have gone by since the last time northern South Park was brought to the table. Our valley cannot afford to wait two more years, much less another 20 years, before we have a plan for northern South Park.
What about Hog Island? The fairgrounds? The Aspens? Stilson? Yes — all these parcels need discussion and community involvement when it comes to housing and transportation goals. However, let’s not throw one out for another.
Just because plans get complicated does not mean we should move on to the next and abandon them. Now is not the time to say, “northern South Park will not work, let’s move on to the next.” Our problems require earnest conversation and not one where certain people or groups have already decided the outcomes. We all have a stake in supporting housing.
Showing up and having our voice heard is critical. Housing will not move forward in a meaningful way without the community standing up and voicing support for housing ideas, including northern South Park.
Plan to show up or go online and leave public comments. Our community issues require each of us to get involved so local working families’ voices are heard and housing plans are not sidelined due to NIMBY-ism and vocal minorities.