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Genzer would continue suit against town if elected
Other candidates believe lawsuit over land-use plan inappropriate.
By Benjamin Graham, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Date: October 4, 2012
If elected, Town Council candidate Jim Genzer said he would continue his lawsuit against Jackson over the new comprehensive land-use plan.
The suit, which aims to put the planning document to a popular vote, could mark the first time an elected town official is involved in suit against the town itself.
“There’s no real precedent that I’m aware of in the state of Wyoming,” Town Manager Bob McLaurin said of the situation.
Genzer, who received the second most votes in the primary elections in August, said he is not concerned with being a part of Town Council while also bringing in a lawsuit against it.
Genzer will face candidates Hailey Morton, Jim Stanford and Phil Cameron in the general election Nov. 6 for two open seats on the council. The three other candidates disagree with Genzer’s take on the plan and believe the lawsuit is inappropriate.
Genzer is steadfast.
“I really feel it foolish on the part of the mayor and Town Council not to allow that vote to go through in the first place,” he said.
Genzer and four other plaintiffs claim the town and county illegally adopted the plan by resolution, rather than ordinance, in an effort to dodge a referendum. State law explicitly says ordinances can be overturned by referendum. The law does not address resolutions.
While Genzer believes the plan should go to a popular vote, he also disagrees with its content on a basic level, a view that separates him from the other three candidates.
He said the taller buildings and denser development called for in the plan will take away from town’s heritage.
“Limiting the Western look to just the little downtown core is a serious mistake when it comes to attracting tourists to our town,” he said.
Genzer said four-story and most three-story buildings have no place in a western town.
“If you’re driving down a tunnel and all you can see are the towers on Snow King, what the heck kind of impression is that?” Genzer said.
The planning document was approved by town and county officials in May as a resolution.
The lawsuit was filed in July, after officials adopted the plan by resolution. Town Attorney Audrey Cohen-Davis said the case will appear before a judge Oct. 17 for scheduling.
Other plaintiffs include Save Historic Jackson Hole, Laurie Genzer, Save Historic Jackson Hole Executive Director Armond Acri and Save Historic Jackson Hole board member Ben Clark.
Morton, who placed first in the primaries, said she would support larger buildings along West Broadway and in town and doesn’t believe they will take away from town’s character. She also said she would judge them on a case-by-case basis.
“Four-story buildings along the north side of Broadway do have a place — the building that houses Sidewinders is a great example.
That’s a lively work space that adds to that section of town,” Morton said in an email.
“[Jackson] still feels like the last of the Old West to me,” she said. “I don’t think the comp plan will take away from town’s Western heritage.
“I don’t agree with the lawsuit,” she said. “At this point, I think we should move forward with the comp plan.”
Cameron said the public has already had sufficient opportunity to weigh in on the land-use plan.
“I think that the comprehensive plan process as it’s progressed has allowed for substantial public involvement,” he said.
The suit is wasting the time and resources of town staff, Cameron said.
“The resources could be better spent with making sure we’re going down the right path with the [land-development regulations],” he said.
Cameron, who placed third in the primaries, believes the planning document can build on Jackson’s heritage by incorporating Western aesthetics. He also said he would support taller development along West Broadway.
“There’s a significant opportunity for growth there,” Cameron said. “I really want to see things blend in well with that hillside. The projects that are there balance a mix of uses. I like that idea.”
As for development in Jackson’s commercial core, Cameron said he is in favor of two- and three-story buildings oriented toward the street.
“I like the idea of people being able to walk to work and to walk to key services, whether it’s the bank or the post office,” he said.
Stanford sided with the majority.
“I was not in favor of this lawsuit,” he said. “I heard a lot of griping about how long the comp plan process took. This lawsuit is only going to prolong that and drive up the costs.”
Stanford, who placed fourth in the primaries, said he is not concerned that the plan will damage town’s character.
“It seems to be a reasonable compromise,” he said. “Especially given the safeguards put in in the form of growth management.”
Stanford said he is leery of “canyoning” but would cautiously support two- to three-story buildings built up to the street in the commercial area surrounding town square and four-story buildings on West Broadway.
“It will be functionally an improvement over the dirt scar we currently look at along West Broadway,” Stanford said.
“It’s not a red flag for me,” he said.