Other Side of the Story: Whose future?

Have you noticed Save Historic Jackson Hole’s new ad campaign?

The “ads” are meant to look and read like informational news columns. Columns that tell an alternative side of today’s big issue stories.

We hope the community continues to stay engaged and thirsty for information on matters that concern our valley and its future.

Here is the Other Side of the Story for April 26:

SHJH growth

Whose future are we headed toward?

If left to their own devices, the well-intentioned folks running the town and county have shown they are incapable of slowing, or even recognizing, the out-of-control growth path we are on. Worse, if given the funds, they appear more than eager to rush hurtling toward Jackson Hole’s Brave New World.

It’s a future that former News&Guide columnist Todd Wilkinson said at the 6th Annual Wildlife Symposium will turn Jackson into Salt Lake City in less than 50 years at our current rate of growth.

It’s a future that routinely arrives sooner than our community can plan for it. An annual indicator report released this spring verified we’ve already hit and exceeded the 5% Growth Management Plan benchmark that triggers a revision of our Comp Plan. Instead, it was decided we’ll postpone another year to give time for local government to catch up with growth.

Meanwhile, the county still hasn’t addressed the most important part of its land development regulations: the Natural Resource Overlay (NRO). Similarly, the town has made little progress toward its implementation of the 2012 Comp Plan. The most vital aspect town leaders could and should address is the affordable housing mitigation rate. As gigantic new hotels sprout up in town, all local electeds can do is complain the mitigation rates are too low and their hands are tied.

Yet the town and county have found plenty of time to tackle other “important” things like trying to figure out how many millions of dollars it will take to get a bike path over Teton Pass. Or wasting weeks on the novelty of declaring Jackson a ‘sanctuary city’ by resolution.

In fact, the last thing the town managed to do to update the LDRs is to put in place zoning for strip clubs in Jackson’s Business Park zone.

Clearly, this whole growth thing is catching our electeds by surprise.


Since 2012, jobs growth is up 17%, residential growth is up 5.5%, commercial is up 4%, and lodging has increased 1.5%. Seasonal population is up by at least 90%, and more square feet of second homes has been built than workforce housing. We are creating jobs far faster than we can fill them.

We are headed in the wrong direction. Our roads are clogged, the wastewater treatment facility is close to maxed out, and the town is so full we are considering emergency camping in public parking lots that were built to address the serious lack of parking on our packed city streets.

Faced with these impending thunderheads of doom, our elected leaders have not only failed to cull a bloated list of SPET propositions, but they’ve actively campaigned for all $68.5 million worth of the taxes. Many of these SPET items will simply encourage more growth and accelerate how quickly we get to their vision of a better future.

Are these SPET items simply catching services up with growth, as our elected officials claim? Or are they examples of the institutional growth that has been one of the very causes of our overcrowding? It’s an urban spiral. More housing creates more need, which creates more building, which creates more housing need again. That’s a growth agenda that serves to increase headaches for us, sales tax revenue for government.

Remember when our elected officials claimed last fall’s general sales tax hike was not an increase in taxes because SPET would be going away? SPET not only didn’t go away but it’s back bigger than ever with 10 items that are mostly wants not needs. It’s a wish list so big, that if a true emergency (think Budge slide) comes along anytime within the next six years, we will be looking at a 7th cent of tax to add to SPET. Meanwhile our electeds are looking into an 8th cent of additional tax if they can convince state lawmakers to approve it.

It’s time to take back control of our community and steer it toward a more livable future. Somebody has to.

Reactions to SPET’s pro-growth agenda

Two letters to the editor in today’s (April 12) News&Guide were encouraging.

One from Laurie Genzer contemplates the notion we might be at carrying capacity now:


Maxed out

Is local government really looking out for us?

Our roadways are maxed out; our sewage plant is getting there; we’ve got benzene in our water, yet government is quiet, unconcerned.

Their focus is more growth, more tax revenue, perks for the few while they ignore the majority.

They’re blind to the problems of growth: overcrowding, empty buses, traffic jams …

Every town and county has its carrying capacity. There are limits to growth. What is the carrying capacity of Jackson Hole? Government has been asked that, and they ignore it. They don’t want to know.

When you’re at capacity, more isn’t better. And we, as a community, are about full up. Look around, you see it everywhere. You feel it when you’re stuck in traffic. We need to stop and take a breather.

What can we do as individuals? How can we send a signal? You do it at the voting booth. Say no to nonessential SPET items. Say no to nonessential spending.

Your vote on May 2 matters, if you make it matter.

There’s only one SPET item that could be essential: the fire stations. It’s No. 9 on the ballot. None of the other items arereally urgent. Life will
go on just fine without them.

Until local government looks at the problems of growth, real problems we all face, just say no in the voting booth.

Make your voice heard.

Laurie Genzer Jackson


The other, from Julia Heileson, brings up numerous good points we should all be thinking about:


Impacts of growth

By loading up the SPET ballot with so many projects the electeds have done us a big favor by highlighting just how much growth is projected for the valley. The growth-inducing impact of these projects is mind-boggling. They all mean more employees and some more users as well, in turn requiring more teachers, doctors, schoolrooms, stores, roads and parking spaces, plus government staff to oversee it all. This on top of the recent Hotel Jackson, the new four-story Marriott, the monstrous expansion proposed for Snow King and the huge recreation complex contemplated on South 89. Yet every week the paper features at least one story highlighting the severity of the housing shortage. A new community college would be especially problematic. How would the students and teachers be housed? Jackson simply cannot be all things to all people. The valley is in serious danger of losing forever the homey Western ambiance, beautiful open spaces and wildlife environment that have defined it for so long.

Julia Heileson Jackson

No Guest Shot

At Save Historic Jackson Hole we are always trying to get our message to the community in the most cost-effective manner. Big developments are taking place in the LDR revisions following the 2012 Comp Plan and we want citizens to know what these growth-enabling changes will bring to the valley: more people, more hotels, more businesses, more traffic.

We believe there is a finite carrying capacity for this valley and we are rapidly approaching it as lack of housing, traffic jams, and other indicators would suggest. Our latest message was denied free publication in a timely manner by the News&Guide. After consecutive Guest Shots by pro-growth individuals (the current mayor Sara Flitner and the former mayor Mark Barron) we thought it only right that an alternative voice of reason be heard. We could not get in under the Guest Shot for the 5-11-16 issue of the News&Guide so we decided to take out a paid ad.

Find it on page A22 in this week’s paper.



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.