Taking matters into our own hands – protecting the Van Vleck block

Taking matters into our own hands – protecting the Van Vleck block

By Alyssa Friedman – Conservation Leadership Institute (CLI) Round 9

My parents, like so many parents, divorced when I was a kid. This meant they worked full time jobs, rediscovered themselves and their interests, were dating, and worked hard to provide a comfortable home for my sisters and me, which they did. But it also meant that my parents really had their hands full.

I was really lucky to have two incredible older sisters, who filled the gaps that were left by my parent’s busy schedule. We banded together and took care of everything from fights to big life decisions amongst ourselves. For example, my sister Lizzy was instrumental in the entire college discovery, application, and visit process for me.

From this experience, I learned that sometimes the people traditionally tasked with looking out for our best interests, may not have the time or resources to do so fully, and you may have to collaborate with sibling, or colleagues, or peers to lead from below.

Similar to our parents, our Town Council here in Jackson is tasked with representing our community’s best interests. They have a lot going on, but if we come together like my sisters and me, we have the power to keep them accountable. And sometimes they get it right. For example, they recently changed the rules to require more employee housing from hotel developers.

They’re currently making another big decision on our behalf. The owner of the Van Vleck block, which includes the Café G, Persephone, and Healthy Being cabins, has requested that the Town Councilors approve a rezone of the block that would remove the buildings and likely drive the restaurants out of business, while making way for another luxury hotel.

It’s the history and character behind those structures, though, that capture the spirit of the Cowboy state, drive tourists into our town, stimulate our economy, and gather local friends to have a cup of coffee on a weekend. Jackson Hole is in danger of becoming a Disneyland version of itself, meant to drive in tourists with little regard to local priorities. But it doesn’t have to be this way – we can save our shared history and small local businesses in the long term and remain a real community with real unique character.

Our only shot at this is to block the rezone, which would make way for a Capital Campaign project. If we can slow down the current deal through this denial of a rezone, it gives time for a locally driven fundraising project to develop the funds necessary to buy the block and preserve it for the community.

We have to band together and take our priorities and history into our own hands to ensure the Town Councilors make decisions in the best interest of our community. So, please join me in lobbying our elected officials at the January 7th town council meeting to reject the rezone of the Deloney block. Reach out to ryan@jhalliance.org to learn more!

Phone: (307) 733-9417
685 S. Cache St. PO Box 2728
Jackson, Wyoming 83001