What happened at the Town Council meeting last week?
A year ago, Snow King was poised to get Forest Service approval for their new amusement park development, including a gondola on town land, ziplines all over the mountain, and a significant expansion into important wildlife habitat – without having to negotiate any updates to the outdated “base masterplan” that governs the commercial base area. Last Monday, we were about to see business as usual again: Snow King’s owners getting what they want, without any accountability.
But dozens of people like you spoke up and let Town Council know that the community wants a seat at the table when Snow King gets a new plan. And on Monday, Town Council voted in a split vote to include some of the base masterplan in a more holistic plan, instead of letting Snow King get away without any community accountability.
What were the choices?
Competing proposals for how to define “phases” made the whole topic very confusing (see our recent blog post untangling the issue). But what it boils down to is that Snow King Resort wanted to get permits for their uphill improvements first, and only then talk about the base area. Or, if they had to talk about the base area, the Resort wanted to leave out the “KM6” parcel, which is the largest undeveloped commercial property in Teton County, with a quarter million square feet of future commercial development potential. So Town Council was faced with the question of how much to include in a concurrent plan, and how much to leave out, among these pieces:
- Uphill amusements and other “improvements” like ziplines, a gondola perhaps taking over the town ballfield, a new road across the face of Snow King, and boundary expansions into wildlife habitat
- Update the base masterplan with recent piecemeal changes that probably shouldn’t have been allowed the way they were, and redraw property boundaries so the resort can sell more commercial properties (Lots 53, 57, 58)
- Update the base masterplan for the central KM6 parcel (“subarea 2” – supposed to be a world-class convention center, according to the current masterplan)
- Update the base masterplan for the hotel area (“subarea 1”)
- Update the rest of the base masterplan
We’ve been saying all along (like last August) that the only way to create a Town Hill that benefits our community in the long run is to have one single fully concurrent process that includes all of the properties at the base, as well as the Forest Service land. And Snow King has been saying all along that they want to keep it separate, and not open up the base masterplan (except to let them sell more commercial property).
What the Town Council decided
Last Monday, the Town Council voted 3-2 to plan for both the new amusement development and some parts of the base commercial masterplan (everything but KM6 and the hotel, and including housing and public benefit) in one process. What they decided wasn’t perfect, and leaves out a couple of the biggest parts of the base masterplan, but this was a much better outcome than we faced a year ago, and we believe it’s an impressive example of listening to public input and crafting a true compromise.
How our representatives voted
We want to express deep appreciation to Councilors Bob Lenz and Jim Stanford, and Mayor Pete Muldoon, for listening to the community and being willing to strike a reasonable compromise that respects the requests of both the community and Snow King’s owners.
We are disappointed that Councilors Hailey Morton-Levinson and Don Frank were unwilling to support this compromise, and voted against it.
We are even more disappointed that Don Frank said “there are 9,456 citizens in the town of Jackson. I’ve seen less than 50 pieces of communication on this item, spread over three meetings. That contradicts the suggestion that they haven’t had the opportunity to speak. Those who wanted to speak, did. The rest are currently mute.” This issue has been incredibly complicated – hundreds of pages of reports, complex charts – so we are impressed that any community members who aren’t being paid to show up took the time to get involved. We believe our representatives should honor this community involvement, instead of minimizing it.
What you can do now
Please read the Planet’s article about the meeting, or better yet, watch the tape (Item 4B here), then contact your representatives and let them know how you feel about their decisions (email@example.com will reach them all).
And, please stay involved because this vote is just the beginning, and your input will continue to matter throughout the Forest Service and Town planning process! Contact us if you want us to keep you in the loop: email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 307-733-9417.