Town debate focuses on density in Jackson
Mayoral candidates on opposite sides; council candidates favor caution.
By Benjamin Graham, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
October 10, 2012
The differences between the two men running for Jackson mayor — incumbent Mark Barron and challenger Jim Fulmer — were stark Tuesday night.
When asked why some perceive town officials as pro-growth, Barron said, “I support density versus sprawl.”
Fulmer, who decided to run a week before primary elections in August out of frustration over the new comprehensive plan, pitched an alternate vision.
“I like a smaller town” Fulmer said. “I like what we had here historically. I’m not in favor of three- and four-story buildings.”
The forum was organized by the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance and focused on land-use issues. Four candidates for two Jackson Town Council seats also participated.
At the beginning of the forum, Fulmer said he didn’t want to see development dumped on town, which, he said, the new land-use plan would cause.
“I don’t believe people in town should be the recipients of 60 percent of development,” Fulmer said.
When it was Barron’s turn to speak, he corrected Fulmer, saying 60 percent of development will not be pushed from the county to the town. Rather, development is to be focused away from rural areas and into already developed areas, but not necessarily to Jackson.
“When you think about the town of Jackson becoming this behemoth metropolis, it’s not going to happen,” Barron said.
Throughout the evening, the mayor defended the new plan and the idea that density should be focused in Jackson.
“You’ve got to ask yourself: Would you rather have sprawling growth across the valley or density that works well?” he said.
Fulmer has said he is running as a “referendum” on the comprehensive plan. He accused town officials of deliberately approving the plan by resolution, rather than ordinance, to avoid having it put to a popular vote. State law allows referendums on ordinances but doesn’t mention resolutions.
At one point, Fulmer addressed the mayor: “You’re my neighbor, I love you. But when you issued a challenge to the citizens of this town to stand up for their rights, this is what happens.”
Barron told the News&Guide in May that anyone in disagreement with the plan could run against him or find a candidate who reflects his or her views.
“If I’m elected, I’ll revisit this plan and put it to a vote,” Fulmer said.
Town Council candidates answered the same questions as the mayoral candidates at Tuesday’s forum.
Phillip Cameron threw his support behind more density in town.
“I’m a very big proponent of efficient use of space,” he said.
Cameron said he likes that he can live a somewhat urban lifestyle — walking to the post office and grocery store — and also access national forest by foot.
His concern with more density, he said, is the infrastructure problems it could create, including parking.
Jim Stanford said he would err on the side of caution when it comes to implementing the comprehensive plan and adding development to town.
“There’s nothing telling us here in town that we have to rush,” he said.
Stanford would like to see action from the county first. He said he would first address stable areas of town.
Hailey Morton views the land-use plan as a way to channel the growth she says is inevitable for Jackson.
“We understand our reality and that Jackson is going to grow,” Morton said. Now is the time to lay a foundation so growth isn’t unregulated, uncontrolled.
Jim Genzer was the only candidate to explicitly oppose adding significant development to town.
“I believe that we’re going to have growth,” he said. “I don’t think that stacking people up, vertical growth, is the thing we need to be doing. There has to be a limit in the 3 square miles we have as the town of Jackson for the amount of growth.”