JIM dandy meeting


TCHAOur electeds officially formed a new regional housing authority to be run jointly by the town and county. Community opposition ran the gamut from staunch opposition to subsidized housing to skepticism about how the housing authority has operated to date.

Commissioner Mark Newcomb and councilor Bob Lenz were not on board with the vote. They both questioned why government wanted to be so involved with housing people.

One quote that jumped out at us came from Mayor Sara Flitner. While many in the audience and many in the valley—IF they were inclined to accept government playing a role in subsidized housing—believe affordable housing should be tailored to the truly needy and low-income members of our community, Flitner said this:

“…I’m more concerned about highly paid people like teachers and an attorney I know who can’t afford a home here. Right now, even a $100,000 salary and a bottomless work ethic can’t guarantee you a roof over your head in this community.”

Do you want to tax yourself to pay for a lawyer’s house in Jackson?


Town and county leaders also voted to ask you for $6 million to fix the Budge landslide. This, despite public comment in opposition and polls showing a majority of taxpayers don’t like the idea of having to bail out Walgreens and the town’s poor decision to allow the major pharmacy chain to carve into an unstable hillside.

“Who signed off on this?” asked concerned citizen Pam Walton at the meeting.

She never got an answer.


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A New Housing Authority

Save Historic Jackson Hole is very skeptical of the latest plan from the commissioners and councilors. Electeds have acknowledged that the current Housing Authority has sometimes ran roughshod in their pursuit of questionable projects that don’t seem to put enough low-income housing on the ground and, in the case of The Grove, have run into cost overruns. Their solution is leaning toward doubling the size of the Housing Authority by creating a new government department under the leadership of a new hire (Housing Director) who is expected to earn up to $161k a year.
The existing Housing Authority will be responsible for simply managing what affordable housing units are already on the ground. This is worrisome. The two organizations will undoubtedly butt heads. Adding to the annual $810k housing authority budget doesn’t seem to be a solution either.
Their isn’t even dedicated and sustainable funding in place yet for housing. And that’s another issue. Are we prepared to tax ourselves to fill a few more government cubicles?

Revised D2 LDRs available now for review

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 10.32.25 AMThe Town of Jackson planning department released a revised draft of the District 2: Downtown Land Development Regulations (LDRs).

The revised draft of the District 2 Downtown LDRs includes a revised Downtown zoning map, revised Lodging Overlay, and revised development standards for the five proposed new Downtown zones.

The primary changes to the previous District 2 draft were made by staff in response to recent direction from the Town Council and Board of County Commissioners to limit the amount of additional nonresidential potential in the Town and County to the amount allowed by existing zoning and to allow staff to draft new incentive tools for workforce housing. More specifically, the following major changes were made:

* The boundaries of District 2 were modified (e.g., existing residential properties on East Broadway and South Cache has been removed from District 2 and added to District 3);

* The location of the five new Downtown zones were revised to more closely match existing zone boundaries (e.g., the new Downtown Core zone replaces the existing UC zone);

* The boundary of the Lodging Overlay was returned to its existing extent;

* The Floor Area Ratios (FAR) of the five new Downtown zones were modified and/or reduced to achieve an increase of “zero” for nonresidential potential in District 2;

* The names of the five Downtown zones were modified to be more accurate and reorganized according to their level of intensity; and

* Other changes were made to the development standards to incentivize redevelopment (e.g., reductions of required Landscape Surface Ratios (LSR) in certain zones);

The draft workforce housing incentive tools authorized by the Town Council are still in the drafting process but are expected to be presented to the Planning Commission at its first scheduled hearing.

The Planning Commission will have a special hearing on the revised draft District 2: Downtown LDRs on Wednesday, March 23 at 5:30 pm. Public comment will be taken at the hearing and written public comment (feedback@jacksontetonplan.com) submitted before March 18 will be included in the Planning Commission staff report. The Town Council is tentatively scheduled to have its public hearing(s) on this item in late April, 2016.

Holding back a hill with a buttress of cash

walgreens“What have we been waiting for?” asked Bob Lenz.

The councilman’s question was directed at administrator Bob McLaurin regarding Budge landslide mitigation that appears to have stagnated for the past two years at “police taping” the affected area until tax revenues come to the rescue.

While waiting on Walgreens executives to offer their solutions (and, more importantly, their financial contribution) town authorities have begun to rebrand the event in the attempt to sway public sentiment headed into this year’s election cycle. One way or another, voters will be asked to pay for a fix on Budge, whether it’s called the West Broadway Landslide or the “Walgreens Waterloo.”

The council was tasked at last Monday’s regular meeting to amend contracts with Nelson Engineering and Landslide Technology that would allow both construction companies to begin Phase II final design work on the west portion of the slide while Walgreens reps decide whether or not they want to fix their half. The price tag comes to $354,351 ($205,307 to Nelson Engineering; $149,044 to Landslide Technology).

“We’ve been waiting on acquisition of dirt,” McLaurin responded to Lenz’s question. He went on to explain sheer keys and buttresses and a conceptual design that would hopefully “shake hands” with what Walgreens is thinking they will do with their east section.

When asked by civic leaders whether anything they approved now is contingent on money coming in via a special tax, McLaurin emphasized again this was work that must be done sooner or later. Preferably sooner.

“The work has to be done,” McLaurin said. “SPET is not about: ‘Are we going to do this?’ Not doing it is not an option. We cannot risk a catastrophic failure of the hillside. It’s about, ‘How are we going to pay for it?’”

Councilman Jim Stanford railed against miscommunication circulating in the community that has painted the oozing calamity as “Walgreens’ fault” or “the town’s problem.”

“This whole community conversation has been about assigning blame,” Stanford complained. “We’ve moved past the blame game. This is too complex and partly the reason why we came to a settlement. There may be litigation between other parties still to come but we need to step away and move toward stabilizing a problem that threatens public infrastructure on Budge. And we are not bailing out any private entity.”

Public Works director Larry Pardee promised any public money raised would be spent on water and sewer remediation, not on shoring up Walgreens’ parking lot. “Even if Walgreens wasn’t there we would be doing the exact same thing,” he said.

With Lenz still advising the town wait on more feedback from engineers, Don Frank was once again “full steam ahead” on “wrestling to the ground” a potential solution for the slide.“I respectfully encourage the council to approve the immediate approval of this. We are fooling ourselves if we think this is a slow emergency,” he said.

Frank suggested town leaders perhaps seek out a firm with more experience in dealing with landslides as the town considered an RFQ (request for qualifications) for a construction manager at risk (CMAR).

Frank said, “I don’t know a firm in western Wyoming that has actually mitigated a landslide. We should find a firm that specializes in landslides. This is not an operation suitable for someone to cut their teeth on.”

Pardee assured Frank they had received interest from a “very large” firm that has worked on Togwotee Pass, for instance.

As an aside, Pardee also stated that neither the current freeze-thaw cycle nor recent earthquake activity had not made any impact on the slide, according to four data points they had studied so far.

The town council voted 3-1 to move ahead with the RFQ process for a CMAR, as well as bid awards to Nelson Engineering and Landslide Technology with Lenz in opposition. Lenz said he was willing to “play the game” but wanted to see all the cards on the table first.

Jackson on growth hormones?

Jackson circa 1970s (Cliff Schandler FB)
Jackson circa 1970s (Cliff Schandler FB)

The question we get asked most often is: Are we anti-growth?

Well, the politically correct answer is no. We support “sound” development that preserves the Old West feel and healthy community Jackson has always been. Moreover, we should pursue a sustainable economy that is not dependent on growth. Lastly, we prefer to live in harmony with nature rather than dominating it with bulldozers and fencing wildlife out of places we think it doesn’t belong.

Growth for growth’s sake is what we are against.

Big cities don’t get that way by local government deciding they want concrete, steel and skyscraper, along with the crime and overcrowding that comes with it. Big cities spring into being one inconspicuous decision at a time. Civic leaders promote commercial development in the interest of job creation. More jobs require more population. More population demands things like more amenities and institutional growth.

And away we go.

The new 2016 Annual Indicator Report is out. Most of the 2015 trends are hardly a surprise. Jobs are being created faster than housing can be built. They are being filled by people who don’t live here. Those people have to travel—vehicle miles are up significantly.

We at SHJH are pleased town and county leaders are at least gathering and reporting data on growth. For too many years they admitted it would be a good idea to have some solid metrics but simply didn’t have the time to compile the data. These reports are important. If we are creating too many jobs too quickly. Let’s stop or slow that down before we simply react to that finding by building our way out of trouble.

Growing smart means growing slowly. Growing slowly means saying no to some things.