Monday, August 1, was a big day for our community.
At the Jackson Town Council evening meeting, years of hard work from the Town Council and planning staff, along with participation from numerous organizations and community members, culminated in the Council unanimously voting to adopt updates to the District 2 (downtown) land development regulations at the third ordinance reading.
Let’s take a moment to reflect on how we arrived at this milestone.
First, our community spent six years hashing out our shared vision for downtown (and the rest of our community) through the development and adoption of our Comprehensive Plan. Through this process, most people shared the vision of a downtown Jackson that’s vibrant and walkable with a balanced mix of housing, lodging, and commercial enterprises.
Then, three years ago, the Town began the process of updating the District 2 land development regulations to align with this vision.
Fast forward to just one year ago. Ideally the Jackson Town Council would have been gearing up to adopt updates that would help house our community’s middle class, help our small businesses find and keep hard working employees, and keep downtown vibrant and the heart of our community.
Unfortunately, they were poised to approve zoning changes for downtown Jackson that would have done just the opposite: encouraging a dramatic expansion of commercial development, lodging, short-term rentals, and higher-end condos (i.e. second homes); generating new low-wage jobs staffed by new low-wage employees who need new affordable places to live, all while not providing nearly enough housing affordable to people who live here.
Then something incredible happened.
Over the past year, you and hundreds of your friends and neighbors decided to rise up, make your voices heard, and speak up for a better future. At numerous public meetings, people like you walked to the podium, took a deep breath, told their story, and asked our local elected representatives to prioritize our community’s middle class over more new Marriotts.
Thankfully, they listened.
The newly adopted land use rules for downtown Jackson have an innovative workforce housing incentive program that should encourage and empower the private sector to build employee housing and they strictly limit new commercial and lodging development potential.
Let’s be clear, while these new land use rules are a huge improvement over the direction we were heading a year ago, they aren’t perfect. They could do more to incentivize housing affordable to people who work here, and could include a fully developed ‘Conservation Incentive Program’ to help conserve open spaces and wildlife habitat too.
Fortunately, the Town Council has directed planning staff to lead a committee of community stakeholders to monitor these new land use rules and propose improvements to make them even better in the future.
Here’s the thing, after years of passionate debate not everyone is going to be stoked on the final outcome. That’s OK. That’s how our American democracy is supposed to work.
Thanks to you and all of the community members, small businesses, and organizations that spoke up on this issue. We all helped make these land use rules significantly better than they were a year ago.
While Monday, August 1, was a big day for our community and the culmination of years of hard work, please know that the Alliance will continue our efforts to ensure that our land use rules align with our community’s vision of a better future.