Candidates for county board focus on South Park
Some fear too much density is proposed with one house per acre.
By Cara Froedge, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
July 2, 2008
Some candidates for the county commission say they worry revisions to the comprehensive plan are too vague and will put too much density in South Park.
Others say the recently publicized document is only in draft form and will continue to morph with more input from the public and officials. In other words, it’s far from finished.
With the release of the draft “Themes and Policies” document June 1, candidates have begun to educate themselves on what the county they could govern might look like 10 years from now. While the document outlines goals for wildlife habitat, worker housing and transportation, among others, it’s a map of South Park and accompanying density that has hit home for some.
The proposed revisions would increase density in South Park to one house per acre and allow denser development at the north end, close to Jackson.
“As a commissioner, I will never support rezoning South Park or any open space outside the city limits currently designated for one home per 35 acres to one home per acre,” said Rick Roth, a Republican candidate. “It is my opinion that the terms rewrite/revision are needed to justify development expansion.”
Last revised in 1994, the Jackson/Teton County Comprehensive Plan is a land-use document that will guide development in the town and county for the next 10 to 15 years.
Like Roth, Democrat Brian Grubb said he’s concerned about densities proposed for South Park. Those proposals, with town-style density toward the north and suburban-style density to the south, seem contradictory to smart growth, he said.
Further, Grubb said he doubts the plan will be finished by fall.
“I think we’ve spent too much time reiterating and rewriting the policies of the ’94 plan when the intent of this whole process was to put meat on the ’94 plan,” he said. “We’ve only made minimal progress. Eighty-five percent of what we have today is simply reiterating and regurgitating what is already in the ’94 plan.”
Grubb said there is more work to be done, especially because important components such as the natural resources overlay are missing.
Other candidates agreed that the draft plan is lacking, but they said that’s to be expected at this point in the revision.
Commission Chairman Andy Schwartz, a Democrat, said the town and county set out to add to the 1994 plan, not write a new one, which is why so much has been “regurgitated.”
Schwartz said he would support some additional density in South Park, particularly the northern part.
“I think that half of South Park has to meet some of our housing needs,” he said. “I think we’re still refining how we get to what those numbers are going to be. ... Three thousand units is probably more than we want.”
Still, the issues are too complicated to break them down into a discussion about South Park’s density. Discussions about that must be tied to transportation, build-out numbers, and natural and scenic resources zoning, he said.
“There are all these interrelated issues,” Schwartz said. “It’s hard to peel one off and not the others.”
Commissioner Leland Christensen, a Republican, agreed.
“The comp plan is very much in a rough-draft stage,” he said. “It is still in the refining and improving state.”
Christensen said the document will receive more public input and then will go to the planning commission and elected officials.
“I encourage the citizens to continue to give input and keep focused,” he said. “This is our plan. This is a community plan and everybody needs to be involved to get to the best place.”
Democrat Claire Fuller said she thinks the process has progressed well but is still a long way from finished.
“They’ve done an incredible job,” she said. “Obviously it’s still in draft form. There are still inconsistencies and gaps.”
Fuller said she’s interested in seeing how the document will incorporate strategies, which are now missing, for implementing various goals and policies.
She would support keeping South Park as it is today with the exception of the land around High School Road, which has good access for START, pathways, schools and other services, Fuller said. Southern South Park, in particular, should remain open for its natural and scenic resources, she said.
Republican Dennis Triano said he had read 20 pages of the document and believes one home per acre should be adequate. He disagrees with building more than that on parcels off High School Road, he said.
“I still lean back toward I’m not thrilled with affordable housing and the way it’s come down in Jackson,” he said.
Republican Bob Morris offered no comments on the draft but said he would amend the 1994 plan so that density bonuses are given for resale-restricted clusters only because every free-market home deepens the housing crisis.
For Teton Meadows, Hereford Ranch and other properties, Morris said he would vote for as many clusters of resale-restricted homes as necessary to generate more money than owners would receive from 35-acre ranchettes.
“Hereford Ranch, of course, should locate its clusters at its north end, next to High School Road, and should be invited to buy Teton Meadows’ development rights,” Morris said.
Finally, Morris said he hopes the final writing of the new plan is clear, simple, direct and straightforward.
Republican Kim Sturlin could not be reached for comment.
All draft documents, including a draft county land-use plan released in May, are open for public comment through July 11. To read a full copy of the draft “Themes and Policies” document or to comment on any of the draft comprehensive plan reports, go to www.jacksontetonplan.com.