All responses are reprinted here in alphabetical order as submitted by candidates, without any editing.
Scott Anderson: I think our community character is our wildlife and wild places along with our people. Getting smarter about planning and growth would help to guarantee that these elements continue to be important in the future. My vision for the future is optimistic.
Ben Ellis: I support the goals of the comprehensive plan that prioritizes protections of wildlife resources. This is done by shifting development potential from the rural lands to town and other developed areas. When development takes place in rural areas, the plan helps ensure that buildings, landscape and fencing allows for wildlife to move through rural lands with little impediment. We also have to address the growth in traffic and its impact on wildlife by creating corridors that link habitats, cross roads and pass through the private lands.
Mark Newcomb: My vision largely corresponds to what is presented in the 2012 Comprehensive Plan for Teton County. It emphasizes environmental protection. It’s a reasonable compromise between growth, community character and protecting the environment. But it’s a tenuous compromise that leaves some uncertainty on a few critical issues. Planned unit developments (PRDs), for example. The community expressed concern that relatively high levels of density could end up near the Aspens and/or Wilson via some form of a contiguous or noncontiguous PRD. My vision and the Comprehensive Plan’s vision is for the predominance of new development to occur in town. So land development regulations crafted to implement the vision will have to be clear on the PRD issue. I favor limiting density in the unincorporated county to levels as close to the base right of 1 per 35 as possible. This might be asking a lot of local landowners, so working with them, being flexible, open and creative, is essential.
Paul Perry: The first point of my platform states I will continue to protect our wildlife, open spaces, natural resources and access to public lands. This is paramount for our whole community.
Reynolds Pomeroy: I share the vision that the community continues to articulate and implement about these three elements, and am grateful for the energy, focus and commitment we have made to steward and enhance those values for decades: intact and diverse wildlife populations, and the habitat to support them; pristine, protected and accessible wild places for wildlife and no-impact human experiences; community character that embodies and respects the elements above and encourages a diverse built, social, and economic environment for future generations.
We are fortunate, as well as challenged by the abundance of public land in Teton County as it requires us to be not only aware of, but also constrained by practical limits and existing boundaries.
Smokey Rhea: Issues with transportation, affordability, management of our limited natural resources and declining community involvement pose great challenges to the well-being of our community. Decisions we make now will determine if this area can remain a place of spectacular natural beauty where our growing population can continue to live in harmony with nature. My vision for the future is that through thoughtful and strategic planning it will.
We face unique challenges as well as the same ones that face every community in Wyoming. How do we protect and preserve our environment while we meet the legitimate needs of the local economy and our citizens? As we try to meet these challenges we must plan on implementing innovative yet sensible solutions that focus on efficiently managing our limited natural resources. Permanently protecting wildlife, wildlife habitat and wildlife movement corridors should be the primary factor in all land use decisions. I believe it is the responsibility of elected officials to insist on natural resource management strategies that ensure environmental preservation because otherwise there will be a decline in the quality of life that has defined us for generations.
Community character is one of those things that is difficult to describe. We have always been a community that takes care of its own. To me our community character comes from people being able to live here who care about the environment but respect the diversity of the people who call the area home.
Paul Vogelheim: To answer this question, I would draw from our adopted comprehensive plan, which reflects my thinking and our community’s vision.
Preserving and protecting the area’s ecosystem is key to our community on many levels. Wildlife, along with wild places and scenic resources, draw both residents and visitors to this special place and are fundamental in our comprehensive plan. To achieve our desired community character our community must protect and enhance the ecosystem in which we live.
I support that our comprehensive plan commits to three Common Values of Community Character: Ecosystem Stewardship, Growth Management, and Quality of Life
Scott Anderson: The three are expanded development in sensitive areas, increased traffic and potential to widen and add more lanes to highways. Lets try to keep Wydot from being forced to widen our roads such as finding solutions for the 89/22 intersection. We also must keep in mind the impacts of allowing development in sensitive areas. Perhaps a future SPET initiative could include the purchase of critical areas for conservation.
- Traffic growth and road expansion has the potential to undermine important wildlife, community character, and aesthetic values. I’ve prioritized the county’s Integrated Transportation Plan to address and reduce traffic growth over time. I think we need a regional transportation authority to make strategic long-term plans for road development and transit. This could be funded by a tax on rental cars and private plane landings at the airport.
- Habitat fragmentation from private development continues to be a concern. It’s essential to complete the rural LDRs and get our new environmental standards right to keep wildlife safe on private lands.
- Climate change is a paramount threat to the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, including stress to wildlife as habitats change. I am the only candidate talking about climate change. With close coordination between agencies, it is possible to plan for and mitigate some of the effects on wildlife, such as water quality and habitat restoration and improving connectivity between critical winter habitat.
Mark Newcomb: Two of the three stem from growth: highway mortality related to crowded highways and high speeds and diminished and threatened habitat (especially winter habitat) due to development. Well-crafted LDRs can address both of those in how they guide the arrangement of development (related to traffic) and in what they ask of developers in terms of providing for habitat and mitigating for habitat loss. I think the third might be a tie between how wildlife is managed by wildlife and land management agencies and a lack of funding for those agencies and for wildlife and related research. We need to support our partners that manage over 97% of our county!
Paul Perry: First is our interaction with wildlife in the winter. Second would be feeding wildlife and third is dogs and wildlife interaction. All three need to be addressed by education.
Reynolds Pomeroy: Loss of critical habitat, the effects of drought and disease, development pressures and impacts. Because so much of the valley is public land, we have a head start in preserving a huge deposit of wildlife habitat. In the increasingly populated +/- 3 percent, we will need to strive to balance land uses to preserve the key winter range, wetlands and wildlife corridors. Fencing strategies, under and over passes, night lighting and night time speed reductions all appear to be helpful in reducing road kill and we should continue to explore and utilize these and other strategies.
Some science has suggested the rampant pine beetle infestations of the past decade were exacerbated by warming trends and drought conditions. We need to remain cognizant of these trends so our land use and development strategies mitigate them when possible.
Smokey Rhea: Increased vehicle traffic is resulting in more animal deaths. I support safe animal crossings, reduced sped limits in areas know to be highly active with wildlife. As a community it is important to continue our efforts to decrease vehicle traffic by offering alternate modes of transportation.
Human and structural encroachment on wildlife habitat has created obstacles to migrating animals. This is especially problematic when it impacts animals trying to migrate between winter and summer ranges. Lobbying against mining, drilling and fracking is an important step in preserving the range.
The loss of quality habitat for fish and wildlife is one of my major concerns. I strongly support the collaboration that exists between public and private wild life organizations concerned with habitat improvement. By combining public and private funding and working together to find better solutions we can achieve what neither could alone.
In order to address all of these issues we need to support comprehensive public education that address the importance of our wildlife to our eco system.
Paul Vogelheim: The major threats to Jackson Hole wildlife and our greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are:
- The loss of wildlife habitat.
- The loss of wildlife conductivity.
- Increases in traffic and proposed road expansions.
First off we need greater urgency and focus for the implementation of our comprehensive plan into land development regulations (LDRs). Until we update our LDRs these threats will go unchecked. Solutions for these threats are complicated and will be dependent on Town and County officials articulating choices to our community.
The Jackson/Teton County Comprehensive Plan states that preserving and protecting the area’s ecosystem is the core of our community character. How will you work to ensure that updates to our land development regulations align with this vision?
Scott Anderson: One of the problems of having a Comp plan without corresponding LDRs is that projects must be judged by the existing code, which is often inconsistent with the plan itself. We must get to the point where these inconsistencies are cured. I will encourage this work to get done.
Ben Ellis: I have been part of developing, planning and adopting the new comprehensive plan. I am very committed to implementing the plan in our regulations. One of the primary goals in the plan is a shift from development on rural lands to protecting rural lands for scenic and habitat where possible. I strongly adhere to this goal and will work to implement strong regulations.
Mark Newcomb: Critically, I fully believe in that vision and am highly motivated to defend it. The rubber meets the road with how well we as a commission maintain that vision at the core of any growth and development related issue and implement it. I will work tirelessly to keep it at the core of our discussions and to implement that vision. I will strive to persuade fellow commissioners to pursue decisions appropriate to that vision. And I will work on my communication skills and the art of persuasion to that end. I’ve learned a lot as a planning commissioner about how certain arguments, often related to private property rights, can erode and chip away at this vision. And I’m learning what arguments related to our values and our community rights are effective in countering them. I’m eager to develop my ability to formulate persuasive and effective ways of communicating, especially when it comes to articulating our community common values
Paul Perry: As the LDR’s are updated each revision should be checked to see if it aligns with the vision.
Reynolds Pomeroy: As the trends in population growth continue, our LDR’s will need to encourage increased density and redevelopment over sprawl. The bulk of my business and non-profit experience has been to practice and/or encourage low-impact use of natural resources, preservation of open space and wildlife habitat and collaboration with diverse stakeholder groups to advance resource stewardship and responsible development. This focus will not change.
Smokey Rhea: That is our challenge for the future: to preserve the landscape, wildlife and lifestyle so uniquely Jackson Hole while shaping the future growth. We are a community blessed with many organizations, locally, and nationally that are dedicated to the preservation of the greater Yellowstone eco system. We have citizens who have vast knowledge and experience we can draw from. I believe that it is imperative that we work with these organizations and individuals and take advantage of their expertise. Community members should be given opportunities to give input at every level of decision making. There needs to be recognition by all involved that partisan politics and special interest groups will not be allowed to override community consent.
Paul Vogelheim: Shifting density and development potential from the rural (open space) areas into complete neighborhoods (including Jackson); and our continued encouragement of conservations easements are the primary tools I see for protecting our critical ecosystem.
Vegie mapping and other tools being generated by the Natural Resources Technical Advisory Board (NRTAB) will further help us track our impacts on the ecosystem and guide development with the least impact. When the NRTAB provides a better understanding of the ecology of the private lands in Teton County, it will form a basis for more modern and effective actions. The ranking of open spaces for example, based on vegetation and habitat values should help guide our natural resource strategies and prioritize areas to preserve and protect.
Also critical, is our Annual Indicator Report and Annual Work Plan. These measure the amount, location and type of growth to better inform the community’s implementation decisions on how best to achieve our Vision including our ecosystem.
The Comprehensive Plan calls for directing future growth into a series of connected, complete neighborhoods, in order to preserve critical habitat, scenery, and open space in our rural areas. What do you view as the key strategies for achieving this goal?
Scott Anderson: Preserving land from development includes incentives for creating neighborhoods, proper zoning, and being prepared to purchase parcels to preclude development.
Ben Ellis: The key strategy for implementing the comprehensive plan will be development of strong LDRs for the rural lands in the county that achieve open space goal through a set of incentives and restrictions. Incentives include increased square footage in exchange for permanent conservation easements.
Mark Newcomb: My interpretation of the Comp Plan is that it by and large directs future growth into Jackson. My interpretation is that it by and large does not include adding much density, or any at all, to complete neighborhoods outside of Jackson. The only transitional character district that includes some leeway for ‘greenfield’ development is near High School Road. And through both my own and planning staff’s research, I’ve come to the conclusion that attempting to replicate (or ‘transfer’) the potential value (i.e., development rights) of a 3 per 35 PRD with ‘workforce’ size and density housing would add substantial levels of density that would ultimately threaten the core of our community character mentioned in the previous question: our wildlife, open space and environment. In short, we likely cannot preserve our community character (i.e., preserve a diversity of housing) by ‘building our way out of it.’ The strategy should be to build less by being disciplined about residential growth in the unincorporated county (don’t forget what’s already baked in: some 900 odd units that merely need a building permit), being disciplined about commercial growth both in town and county, and being disciplined about preserving opportunities for workforce scale housing in the transitional character districts in and around the town of Jackson. As envisioned in the Comp Plan, development should pay its way.
Paul Perry: People will have to accept increased density in complete neighborhoods.
Reynolds Pomeroy: Responsible increases in density, support for and expansion of mass transit services. See answer to #4 above.
Smokey Rhea: After spending years on discussions, spending untold dollars on experts, advisors, studies and surveys we are finally where we are today. My key strategy is to stay focused on getting it done. I would welcome expert advice from community members and organizations to review each of the LDR’s to ensure they will accomplish the goals the community set forth in the adopted comprehensive plan. Staff would develop the language and review the legalities but ultimately it is the elected officials who must ensure they are understandable, enforceable and not misleading. The plan is there and we must avoid our tendencies to make concessions for special interests.
Paul Vogelheim: Shifting development out of our rural areas and into complete neighborhoods (like Jackson) is foundational to our comprehensive plan. Key strategies will be discussed and debated in our upcoming update for the rural section of our LDRs.
Making sure trends match our plan with reviews of our annual indicator reports (with a reconciliation) will be critical. Since adoption of our Comprehensive Plan, the number of residential units in the community has grown 1.5%. At this slow, steady growth rate, the Growth Management Plan review trigger of 5% growth will be reached in 2018. This will be a critical check-in for additional corrective action if needed.
Footnote to explain our Growth Management Program: Growth Management Program is a quantitative review structure that provides the measurability and accountability needed to ensure the community will achieve our Vision. The Growth Management Program allows the community to be adaptive, responsible and decisive in addressing the amount, location and type of growth. A trigger, targets, and feedback mechanisms provide a structure to continuously verify the path the community is on and correct course when necessary to ensure our desired community character is realized
Scott Anderson: As roadways are rebuilt, I encourage the use of under/overpasses. I also think we need to create better visibility for motorists particularly on the Village road. The Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation’s recommendations should be followed.
Ben Ellis: The most successful tool for connecting habitats across roads are underpass/overpass areas with fencing to help wildlife navigate the crossing. I support all efforts in our community to make safe road-crossings for wildlife.
Mark Newcomb: In the near term lowering speed limits has proven to be the most effective way to make it safer for wildlife to cross roads. In the long term slowing the growth of vehicle traffic through the strategies I presented in the previous question, working with WYDOT to ensure we include wildlife underpasses in future road improvements, and working with large landowners to enhance natural habitat to help avoid pushing animals across highways.
Paul Perry: As roads are rebuilt, the county needs to work with WY DOT to see where wildlife overpasses can be incorporated into designs. Educating the public to slow down in the winter should continue to be a priority also.
Reynolds Pomeroy: As stated previously, slower night time speeds, night lighting in some critical areas (West Broadway), highway over and under passes, and fencing to direct wildlife to safe crossings all seem to be effective. Identifying what the community can do to reduce traffic counts and forestall or delay the widening of Hwys 22 and 390 is also critical, and we will all have to make some serious efforts and ease-of-transportation sacrifices to do so. Although the challenge is real, strong leadership can move us in the right direction.
Smokey Rhea: I am a strong advocate for wildlife crossings including tunnels, viaducts and overpasses that are designed to help wildlife safely cross the road. They are used world-wide and have proven to be the most effective way to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions. In addition to helping to avoid collisions the crossings allow for the connection or reconnection between habitats that have been fragmented by roads and highways. According to a recent survey conducted by the Alliance 80% of Teton County residents support building a network of wildlife crossings in our community. WYDOT’s future plans include wildlife crossings as part of their S. Highway 89 re-construction. I would hope for a close collaboration between state officials, local elected officials, private citizens and conservation groups to ensure the completion of WYDOT’s stated goals. Reduced speed limits in areas known to have high levels of animal activity are crucial. Community education and involvement is essential.
Paul Vogelheim: A goal of the comprehensive plan is to reduce wildlife and vehicle collisions and we track this as part of our annual indicators each spring.
In general, the nighttime slow down in vehicle speeds has and will continue to reduce wildlife collisions. Additional suggestions offered by the Jackson Wildlife Foundation for Highway 390 such as brush clearing by our roadways and increase lighting are also important.
Review of specific kill zones and by species will allow for adaptive solutions to be generated. These are very complex issues and there is not just one silver bullet (like wildlife crossings) to address fixes for each species of deer, elk, antelope and moose.
Grizzlies in John Dodge. Wolves in Melody Ranch. A cougar on the pathway near Gregory Lane. Wildlife continually moves through our neighborhoods and sometimes things can go wrong: the incident with a cougar up Cache Creek a few years back created problems for citizens, agencies, and (ultimately) the cat. What do you think our community should do to reduce conflicts with wildlife moving through our neighborhoods?
Scott Anderson: Better education and science based animal management.
Ben Ellis: We live in a complex ecosystem and celebrate the wildlife in our neighborhoods. But we must find ways to minimize conflicts and protect critical wildlife habitats, especially on private lands. County regulations have progressively worked to discourage wildlife conflicts in neighborhoods by reducing attractants from landscaping and making fencing wildlife friendly.
The community should consider developing other tools, such as Wildlife Ambassador Program, modeled after community watch. The program would train residents to interact with and educate people on best practices related to wildlife.
Mark Newcomb: Planning wise we need to incorporate wildlife permeability in neighborhoods. Wildlife will continue to be attracted to our neighborhoods, so education about wildlife proofing homes and habits will be important. We’ll also likely need to look at our rules surrounding domestic pets, especially dogs. That won’t be easy, but I don’t know of anyone who’s happy about dogs chasing wildlife. Education and peer pressure, led by our elected officials, will transform our habits surrounding our pets and how we behave around wildlife.
Paul Perry: Education is the best answer on this question. PSA announcements, messaging at the schools and the ads in the paper are all part of the solution. Keeping dogs on leashes or better voice command would help also.
Reynolds Pomeroy: Although the question seems to focus on predator species, elk, deer, moose and countless small game and non-game animals are well entrenched in our rural, suburban and even “urban” neighborhoods and their presence appears to be increasing in some areas and with some species. To the extent these populations attract the predator species, we need to be sure we are not enticing the former with non-native plant species, illegal feeding, etc. Educating the public about the benefits and challenges/dangers of co-existing with wildlife should be a priority. This education process can take place through mailers, advertisements in the paper, on the county’s website, meetings with HOAs and other community organizations, brown bag lunches with County Commissioners, and similar events. Responsible domestic pet ownership and pet owner education have a role to play as well. We have taken solid steps to require bear proof garbage containers, avoid obvious temptations like bird feeders in certain areas, etc. However, it appears that in the cases of grizzlies and wolves, they are actually expanding/returning/wandering into populated areas. This is a blessing and a curse, and we will likely face increasing conflicts that will only require an increased effort by all of us to avoid additional problems in the future.
Smokey Rhea: We have built in prime wildlife habitat and we should expect these conflicts will occur. Like most problems education is one of the best tools to use when seeking a solution. By educating people about the benefits of peaceful coexistence, providing tools and guidance for nonlethal conflict management, and publicizing solutions that can prevent conflicts from arising in the first place we can protect our families, pets and wildlife. Many people accidentally and unknowingly encourage wild animals to visit their neighborhoods by unsafe practices. The Wyoming wildlife agency (Game and Fish) offers numerous programs to help people coexist with wildlife. It is in the best interest of our community to take advantage of the resources they have available.
Paul Vogelheim: We need to encourage permeability for wildlife in our rural areas so we should discourage fencing (and at least require wildlife friendly fencing) and look for greater controls of our pets. We need to continue to be cognizant of our landscaping choices—recognizing that fruit trees and certain vegetation will attract wildlife. Plus, we need to manage our garbage and waste appropriately
Our community has established the goal (through the Comprehensive Plan) of housing at least 65% of our workforce locally. When people cannot live in the place where they work, they are often forced to commute long distances, consuming significant amounts of fossil fuel, increasing traffic and roadkill, reducing family time, and undermining community character and resiliency. What do you see as the primary tools we should employ to help hard working families afford to live here?
Scott Anderson: The county should show decisive leadership by purchasing land and building workforce housing and encourage housing groups to purchase existing homes in existing neighborhoods as they become available.
Ben Ellis: About 10% of the housing in Teton County is restricted in some way as employee or affordable housing. That is a great community effort. But the old tools must be updated to overcome the increasing cost of land. Government’s role is to help with the most difficult, permanently affordable housing. To do so, we need a dedicated funding source, such as a specific portion of sales tax, to build and buy housing.
The comprehensive plan and land development regulations allow for affordable and employee housing in appropriate neighborhoods. These tools create incentives for the private sector to build and own employee housing.
Mark Newcomb: My answer to this question is largely the same as my answer to question 5. It’s a question of 65% of how much? The larger the ‘workforce’ and the larger the need for workers because of high-end residential and commercial growth, the harder it will be to house 65% of it. Our long-term strategy will have to be managing our high-end residential growth in the unincorporated county, not allowing any expansion in commercial growth beyond what is already in place, and make full use of the character districts designated for workforce housing. This does not mean that housing will be ‘dumped’ on town. Town development regulations will limit single and multi-family residences to forms by and large already seen in town character districts with a predominance of workforce housing. While what goes on in town depends on our elected leaders it town, I would strive as a commissioner to encourage town to not lose workforce housing opportunities to commercial development, and to set the goal of guiding that new residential development towards the size, scale, functionality and diversity appropriate for our workforce.
Paul Perry: Reducing the restrictions and time frame for folks wanting to build in complete neighborhoods so that workforce housing can be built. Employers are also going to have to step up and provide more housing for their workers as time goes on also.
Reynolds Pomeroy: We have been discussing many of the same tools for twenty years, and what we need now is the resolve to utilize them; increased density through zoning and developer incentive will help to reduce the cost of some types of housing units. Provide more rental housing alternatives which will assist in developing and securing reliable sources of revenue to purchase land and/or subsidize other and various aspects of housing costs. Other sources of revenue will need to be established as well, and continued philanthropic efforts all have a role to play. Take and make opportunities as they arise or with planning, respectively. Increased mass transit opportunities to defray costs of commuting and vehicle ownership.
Smokey Rhea: Obviously completing the LDR’s is crucial to any forward movement of putting housing on the ground. Having language that is understandable and enforceable when establishing regulations is essential. I embrace public-private partnerships to get affordable housing projects completed. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s employee housing that is currently being built is a good example. I would like to see the establishment of a housing trust with a sustainable funding source. We need to look at all financial options and not assume taxing the community is the only one. Other communities have used bonds successfully as a tool in establishing workforce housing. I would like to investigate the possibility of leveraging public funds to create an employer assisted housing program that local business owners can buy into.
Elected officials need to make a firm commitment that workforce housing is a priority and not just an issue to be trotted out each election year and then promptly forgotten. Community requires a sense of place and a sense of place requires a diversity of people and housing types. We have not focused on affordable rental units which are key to the natural progression of renter to homeownership. We can’t simply drift into an uncertain future powered by the expectation that free markets can solve workforce housing issues. We need our local governments to work together because it is a town and county problem and without a town and county solution there will be no solution.
Paul Vogelheim: I agree with this goal of housing at least 65% of our workers, as it will keep our community “real” and maintain our unique character. We need to encourage more workforce housing options—including private sector and rental solutions and employee housing. Public sector delivery of deed-restricted housing can also be enhanced with greater cooperation between Jackson and Teton County and expanded with the help of the Wyoming Business Council and other state agencies.
Our community has also established the goal of both residents and visitors being able to safely, efficiently, and economically move within our community, and throughout the region on foot, bike, and transit. What specific steps should we take over the next two years to begin our journey toward this goal?
Scott Anderson: We should continue to achieve the goals of the pathways master plan and, more importantly determine a funding source to pay for future maintenance.
Ben Ellis: The multi-jurisdiction approach to transportation planning fails. There are too many agencies with too narrow focus. We need to form a Regional Transportation Authority in partnership with WYDOT, Grand Teton National Park, Town, County, and, possibly Alpine and Driggs. The authority should be tasked with strategic planning of roads, sidewalks, pathways and wildlife crossing. The authority should develop strong multimodal goals and develop a transit system that prioritizes a fare free system and extended routes. All of this should be paid for by visitors that represent more than two thirds of our total traffic. To do so, the authority should tax rental cars and private plane landings at the airport.
Mark Newcomb: Over the next two years we should look at strategies aimed at enhancing and expanding transit, encouraging ride-sharing and ensuring the successful completion of pathways along Highway 22 and the South Park Loop. While it’s hard to put forward specific strategies, the general idea is to lower the ‘cost’ of transit (both monetary and time/convenience costs) and raise the cost of driving. Obviously the latter is controversial, and for good reason. Due to congestion alone, the cost of a ‘Wilson carpool’ (driver and dog) is already going up. So more emphasis should be placed on reducing the cost of transit and ride shares.
Paul Perry: We are on the right track to finish the pathway master plan which is a part of the solution. I am going to go back to educating the residents of the opportunities to ride START, consider riding their bikes and carpooling.
Reynolds Pomeroy: Devise, encourage and provide more transit alternatives, including additional free services which may have to be heavily subsidized at first in order to encourage changes in behavior. It appears the Town is implementing significant steps to make foot travel within its limits both safe and appealing. Likewise with bicycling in town with practical seasonal limitations.
Smokey Rhea: I would look at finishing what has been started, improving on the progress already made and looking to the future with a broader vision. Specifically I would like to see our community become nationally recognized as an age friendly community. A place where citizens and tourists of all ages have access to and ability to use our extensive pathway system and public transportation. We have an obligation to provide safe and accessible transportation opportunities for all citizens. Much emphasis has been placed on getting the system County wide but I think more work is needed to make them a safe mode of travel. For safety reasons I would advocate for some separated pathway systems for pedestrians and bikers especially in areas with a higher population of seniors. Pathways, START and our sidewalk system leave a large population of senior citizens, people with permanent or temporary disabilities and small children unable to use them due to the lack of places to stop and rest or wait for a bus. We need rest and waiting areas that are sufficient in number, well-maintained and safe.
I would advocate for increased bus routes to local outlying areas such as Rafter J. We must increase the number of trips to Lincoln County and Teton County Idaho in order to meet the needs of people who do not work 8 to 5.
Paul Vogelheim: Automobiles are still our reality for getting around so we need to build stronger relationships with WYDOT. WYDOT has legal and logical authority to manage our key roads. Our community needs to have a unified and constructive voice in order for WYDOT to do their best work. We need to do this on their terms using WYDOT’s Urban Systems Design, while introducing our findings and ideas from our Integrated Transportation Plan (ITP). I really appreciate the collaborative work on highway over Togwotee pass. It serves as a great example of our community having had an influence on the highway design (especially with wildlife crossings) and Togwotee reflects many of our community values. It should be applauded and it should serve as a model of successful cooperation. Our community has already initiated many progressive alternative modes and programs of transportation and we need to expand on these:
- START should be fare free in our valley and routes expanded.
- Our private public partnership with AllTrans–providing public transportation to our airport (Ride2Fly)–should be expanded and encouraged.
- Our pathway master plan and current gaps in the system need to be completed. We should be very proud of our pathway system and our new pathway bridge over the Snake.
The 2012 Horsethief Canyon fire. The 2001 Green Knoll fire. The historic Snow King fire. Frightening reminders that we live in wildfire country. And now, science suggests that the probability of wildfire in NW Wyoming may increase sevenfold due to climate change. Here in Teton County nearly 4,500 homes are located in the “wildland-urban interface” directly in the path of future wildfires. This threat has significant implications for planning where development occurs, providing emergency services to existing homes, and choosing how to pay for protection of homes and structures. How do you plan on addressing this issue?
Scott Anderson: Fires whether caused by man or nature are issues that, I believe, are part of the fire management plans that the County is constantly updating. They are also part of the risk in living in any mountain town. We should allow for the creation of defensible space around existing homes and think carefully about the location of future development.
Ben Ellis: The first line of defenses is the private landowner, who has an obligation to make their property defensible and as safe as possible. Simple measures go a long way, such as removing evergreen trees from near the property, using fire resistant siding and roofing, and landscaping fire resistant buffer around their property. Education and zoning regulations could be strengthened in the wildland urban interface to help reduce the risk of fire on private lands and property.
Mark Newcomb: Addressing the number of homes in the WUI (I thought it was 3,000, but I won’t argue—either way it’s a BIG issue), will take a step-by-step, short-term/long-term strategy. Step one: awareness. We better make sure all living in the WUI know it and understand the implications. Two: the fire-fighting agencies already has sort of a ‘triage’ policy regarding which homes they will defend before others, if at all. We should make sure all living in the WUI are aware of that. Three: as we craft LDRs, how are we addressing future development in the WUI? Four: are there long-term ways to extinguish or transfer development rights in the WUI that have not yet been exercised? Five: how much are we willing to spend as a community to defend WUI residences, and how do we ensure we have those funds available? Those are questions that merit research, data and creative thinking—exactly what I look forward to doing as a commissioner.
Paul Perry: As homeowners continue to build in the “interface” the fire department would be the lead agency to let residents know that they may or may not be afforded protection depending on access and location. Outreach and workshops on building defensible areas around homes should be a component of the issue also.
Reynolds Pomeroy: To start, make it clear that irresponsible use or misuse of fire has serious financial and potentially criminal penalties for those implicated. But the Horsethief incident made it obvious that we also have to increase our efforts at educating the public about the risks of careless use of fire. Incentivize where possible, but ultimately educating homeowners and HOA’s on how and when to implement landscaping defensible space, selecting safer exterior materials, and utilizing structural and landscape sprinkling strategies to reduce the possibility of structural fires. Insurance companies are already playing a role here.
Smokey Rhea: Fortunately Teton Interagency Fire has a viable plan in place. As stated on their website: The plan comprises all of Teton County including local, state, and federal land ownership as well as private lands. The plan highlights current and emerging wildfire hazards and describes treatment alternatives that may mitigate those problems. The CWPP defines wildland urban interface areas within Teton County and provides a tool for landowners and managers at all levels to utilize in planning and prioritizing efforts to mitigate wildfire hazards. This plan is a result of a collaborative effort by the Teton Area Wildfire Protection Coalition. Our county has established plans for natural disasters as well. Again education is the key. We must ensure our citizens know what tools are available to them and how to access them so they are prepared when disaster occurs.
Paul Vogelheim: We need to continue to educate homeowners and future homeowners of the risks of wildfires and how they can be proactive with programs such as FireWise. This program encourages specific efforts that can help make homes more defensible to fires.
We will need to look encourage updates to our building code to introduce new technologies to keep homes on these front lines safer.
We need to continue to work with the Conservation District to encourage that incentives are in place for defensible space and Emergency Management Services for emergency preparedness and services including warning systems and evacuation communications.