The Conservation Alliance asked our candidates for town council, county commission, districts, and TCD the following questions regarding our wildlife, wild places, and community character. All responses are reprinted here as submitted by candidates, without any editing.
Jump directly to an issue: preserving & protecting our ecosystem | wildlife collisions and crossings | workforce housing | community growth | Snow King master plan | Natural Resource regulations | transportation | American public lands.
** – Indicates primary only candidate
Please introduce yourself.
- Mark Newcomb: I grew up in Teton County, attended Carleton College, worked sundry jobs to help pay for college. I guided for Exum Mtn Guides for 20 years, taught avalanche courses and guided skiing in Alaska. I studied Mandarin in college and leveraged that ability and knowledge of China to lead expeditions to mountains and regions of China that had not previously been visited by foreigners. In 2004 I volunteered as a County Planning Commissioner. In 2006 I returned to university at the University of Wyoming, graduating four years later with a Masters in Economics and Finance. In 2014 I was elected a Teton County Commissioner. I’ve served as the chair of the commission for the last two years. It has been a great honor to serve a community as passionate and unique as Teton County’s, and I would love to serve for another four years.
- Andrew Byron: I’m Andrew Byron and I am running for Teton County Commissioner. Jackson Hole has been home for 33 wonderful years; I attended Wilson School, Jackson Hole Middle School, Jackson Hole High School, and earned a BS in Political Science from the University of Wyoming. My Jackson roots have made me the passionate conservationist, river enthusiast, active and proud community member, volunteer firefighter, high school ski coach, and small business owner I am today.
Being engaged in different aspects in Teton County has shown me the importance of sustainability in our beautiful environment and individual lives. Teton County needs to continue the hard work of preserving our county for future generations, while being realistic of the day-to-day needs and livelihoods of our community members. I will be thoughtful of the future while working hard to make the difficult decision today.
- Seadar Rose Davis: I’m Seadar Rose Davis and I live in Hoback with my husband and our dog, Scout.
One of the gifts of being the daughter of a single mom was spending my afternoons with my grandfather. A survivor of not one, but five heart attacks, my grandfather knew the fragility of life. Every day, I watched him thrive and give his passions his all. He instilled in me the importance of giving back to your community and of standing up for what you believe in. And that in the process, you should always be curious, be kind and be resilient.
Be curious, be kind, be resilient. I have carried these virtues with me since those childhood afternoons and they continue to fuel my journey. It was these virtues, coupled with the support of my family and community, that enabled me to work as tirelessly as my grandfather and put myself through college — becoming the first in my family to earn a degree. It was this drive that helped me navigate the incessant hurdles and challenges of a career as a touring musician and small business owner. I have discovered that with these virtues, I have learned to thrive in the face of challenge. I look forward to serving Teton County by bringing this drive, passion and energy to the Board of County Commissioners.
- Luther Propst: Luther Propst. I have worked over 30 years to advance conservation and sustainable planning throughout the North American West. I started my conservation career with World Wildlife Fund, where I helped communities protect wildlife habitat as they grew. In 1991, I established the Sonoran Institute and ran it for 21 years. Sonoran used collaborative, community-based approaches to help communities realize their vision for the future. I have a law degree and a master’s in regional planning.
I also have long experience in Teton County. In 1989, the Jackson Alliance for Responsible Planning invited me to help organize and lead a community dialogue on growth and planning. Since then, I have visited many times for work and fun. In 2008, I moved here part-time and quickly made it my full-time home. I have served on the boards of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance and Center for Jackson Hole (i.e. SHIFTjh).
My first position after earning my law degree and master’s in regional planning was with a large law firm representing conservation and neighborhood organizations, landowners, and local governments on complex land use matters around the country. For more context on my role at the Sonoran Institute, see this 2012 interview in High Country News.
I chair the board of the Outdoor Alliance, a national coalition of nine conservation groups working to protect America’s public lands and waters and the human-powered outdoor experience. I serve on the boards of the International Mountain Bicycling Association and the George B. Storer Foundation, a Jackson-based foundation that deploys grants for conservation, early childhood environmental education, climate change mitigation, and sustainable community development.
In 2014, the Murie Center awarded me their annual Spirit of Conservation Award. In 2013, the Funders Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities awarded me their annual Nicholas P. Bollman Award (for leaders whose commitment to building strong, sustainable, and equitable communities inspires others).
I enjoy exploring the wild country of Teton County, Greater Yellowstone, and beyond – on foot, ski, bicycle, with a fly rod, or in a kayak or pack raft often with my partner Liz Storer.
- Mark Barron: My name is Mark Barron and since I came to Jackson in the mid-70’s I’ve had a passion for our community. We raised our children here, and in turn, Jackson Hole has provided my family with countless blessings. Over the years we’ve been reminded time and again of our deep appreciation for the people of this community. It’s with that sincere gratitude that I want to again serve the good people of this valley.
- Mary M. Martin: Mary M Martin. I am running for Teton County Commissioner because I have a 40-year history of service
and successful accomplishments which have helped to create the fabric of our community and include:
➢ Create and work with collaborations to generate programs, services and agencies - important assets to Teton County;
➢ Mediation and facilitation services in which I am certified;
➢ Conduct economic analyses;
➢ Small business counselor.
I bring a unique skill set that will be a tremendous asset to the County Commission. My definition of community is formed from research and approaches community from the community capitals framework. I care deeply about Teton County being an amazing place to call home. I work with families, youth and businesses in our community, and desire that we seriously create a reality that our youth can live and work in their hometown. My established working relationships regionally and statewide will facilitate Teton County to work with our neighboring communities and becoming a good neighbor. Being fiscally conservative, strategic decisions made today are important for how we plan for our future growth. We have the opportunity and must choose to seek creative solutions to today’s issues. I will be honored to serve you as a Commissioner. I will actively be reaching out to you to help make Teton County an amazing place to call home...none of us are smarter than all of us!
- **Richard Aurelio: Richard Aurelio, Democratic candidate for Teton County Commissioner.
Raised by a single mom in an immigrant family in the "projects" of NYC. Later, worked my way through college as a steamfitter/welder on high rise buildings in the summers, supplemented with scholarships. Luckily and thanks to guidance from my step dad, after graduation didn't head to Alaska to work on the pipeline, but for 1/3 the salary, took a job as an engineer working on the Atlas Rocket program starting a rewarding career that ended as Chairman and CEO of Varian Semiconductor Associates.
While my open space experience was limited to Central Park, I was always in love with it, and as early in my career, took my first vacation ever to Jackson and skied with Pepe, we were finally able to move here 20 years ago with our daughter, who attended public school.
I am Running for county commissioner because I am worried that lately we have not been living up to the goals of the Comprehensive plan...and I want to fix that.
I’ll keep Jackson an Inclusive and Safe Community, preserve our Values and Life Style, and be a diligent steward of the Environment. Open Space and Wild Life should be at the forefront of our decisions.
I believe being a County Commissioner should be about public service not public employment, and I'll listen and work to represent the voters, not the special interests, donating all my entire salary to local charities.
- Wes Gardner: My name is Wes Gardner. Drawn by the surrounding mountains, I arrived in Teton County as a teenager 22 years ago. When opportunity knocked and drawing on my twelve years of retail experience, I opened Teton Toys in 2010. From my first visit at the age of eleven, I wanted to live here, and I feel amazingly blessed all these years later to call Teton County my home. I’ve always responded to the calls of nature, and I recognize that our greatest asset in this community is the wilderness in which we live. From mountaineering to car camping, I’ve explored many of the county’s wild lands. They are what brought me here, and they are why I never want to leave.
- Sandy Ress: I am Sandy Ress. I've lived in the Valley full-time since 2000 and have been a very strong advocate for drastically reducing (notice, I did not say eliminating) population growth and tourism and for doing all we can to protect wildlife and our environment. I believe the fact that almost all of our estate will go to wildlife habitat preservation demonstrates our commitment to this cause.
The Jackson/Teton County Comprehensive Plan’s vision is to “Preserve and protect the area’s ecosystem in order to ensure a healthy environment, community and economy for current and future generations.” What does “preserve and protect the area’s ecosystem” mean to you, and what are three specific actions you think our community should take in the next four years to work toward this vision?
- Mark Newcomb: Preserve and Protect the area’s ecosystem means ensuring an ecosystem that is as vibrant and healthy as the one we have now. A healthy ecosystem has value to every individual that lives here and every individual that visits here. Clean air and water are vital for human health as well as ecosystem health; wildlife is a public good and healthy wildlife populations benefit everyone—hunters, viewers and as proof that the ecosystem is healthy. Impacts to the ecosystem caused by human activity can hurt and/or take something away from, other humans, even if only incrementally. Sometimes, as in a wildlife-vehicle collision, human actions can have a catastrophic impact on individuals. Growth—new development—should acknowledge and pay for this cost, even if only incremental. New commercial should pay housing mitigation; new development should avoid habitat and mitigate for impacts where it can’t avoid habitat; new development should accept that it shouldn’t be allowed everywhere and adapt to zoning that incentives moving new development into areas where that minimize its impacts to the ecosystem.
- Andrew Byron: Preserving and protecting the area’s ecosystem is vital to every aspect of our community. We need to be vigilant conservationists and continue to support our rivers, parks, wildlife, and land. It is a priority of mine to reduce wildlife vs vehicle accidents. We need to work with WYDOT to build wildlife crossings and underpasses and continue to work towards healthy rivers and clean water for everyone to enjoy. We need to work with landowners to educate and improve the entire Snake River watershed. We need to responsibly promote Jackson Hole so we can have a healthy economy.
- Seadar Rose Davis: To me, this comes down to our responsibility as stewards of the land and maintaining quality of life for us all - wildlife, lands and humans. This also includes smart growth - making sure that development is focused in the right areas (complete neighborhoods with infrastructure and amenities) and out of areas of habitat. We should be acting in a way that protects our natural resources for current and future generations.
Specific actions we should take include:
> Finish updates to our Natural Resources Land Development Regulations.
> Pursue funding, begin design and build wildlife crossings (as prioritized in the Wildlife Crossings Master Plan).
> Address and improve water quality issues in Fish Creek, Flat Creek and surrounding waterways.
- Luther Propst: Three specific priorities to protect the area’s ecosystem include:
1. A Conservation Action Plan would engage the public to evaluate and set priorities among a wide range of conservation challenges. These may include, but are not limited to:
> commuter bus routes and transit centers,
> energy efficiency and renewable energy,
> purchase (and retirement) of development rights (PDR),
> solid waste management,
> stewardship leases,
> transfer of development rights (TDR) and a TDR bank,
> water quality and river health,
> wildlife vehicle collisions (WVCs) and the Wildlife Crossing Master Plan.
2. Sustainable Transportation. Building new roads and expanding current roads would create negative and irreversible impacts on our community, while only increases demand for more automobile traffic and relocating, rather than reducing, congestion. Before doing so, we should exhaust other options to improve mobility. My priorities are:
> Expand commuter bus service from Teton and Star Valleys.
Work with the National Park Service, Town of Jackson, Teton Village, and other partners to create convenient summer bus service between Jackson and Grand Teton National Park.
> Develop transit centers at Stilson and south of town.
Cooperate with WyDOT and others to improve the flow of traffic on local highways (e.g. replacing traffic signals with roundabouts, making other traffic management improvements). The reworking of the Y intersection is a good example of improving traffic flow without adding new lanes or roads.
> Consider building new roads and adding lanes after we have exhausted other approaches that are more compatible with our comprehensive plan and local values.
3. Public Lands. Teton County includes vast acreage of the Bridger-Teton National Forest (which constitutes about half of the land in the county), Grand Teton National Park, almost half of Yellowstone National Park, and the National Elk Refuge. These federal public lands are essential to the quality of life and economic prosperity in Teton County and they constitute globally significant and relatively intact refuge for wildlife. These public lands, and the wildlife and waters that these lands protect, are facing unprecedented assault. Teton County should be a strong partner in ensuring that these lands and wildlife are well managed. I will work to ensure that Teton County is an active and effective voice for keeping our public lands in public hands and for protecting our lands, waters, and wildlife.
- Mark Barron: This means that every action I take to balance the needs of people and the environment must be well considered, listening to all viewpoints. With less than 1% of Teton County entire land available to development we should recognize that much has been done in this regard. On behalf of the Jackson Town Council, I signed the U.S. Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement in 2007 in which 12 guiding points speak to this very issue and more. Please read it. I believe that protecting wildlife habitat and connectivity, open space and our natural resources requires land use regulations that add density in complete neighborhoods and the Town, particularly above businesses in our general business developed zones outside of our historic town square. The agricultural industry in county 22 has not been a huge money maker over their many years, but we can be thankful to our ranching families for their protection of wide open spaces, their decades of working with wildlife migration and feeding, for their desire to protect their ranchlands for future generations with conservation easements.
On behalf of the Jackson Town Council, in 2007 I signed the Jackson Hole 10X10 in partnership with Teton County, an energy reduction initiative to conserve and reduce energy use by 10% by 2010. Jackson Hole 10X10 began a county wide effort of conservation and innovation that resulted in the Town of Jackson reducing electricity consumption by 50%, the Town and County each partnering with our utility, Lover Valley Energy, to purchase local sourced certified low impact hydroelectricity from Swift Creek and Strawberry Creek which provides 100% of the Town’s and County’s electricity needs. Working with our Jackson Town Council and county commission chairman, Andy Schwartz, county commissioners and Lower Valley Energy CEO Jim Webb and board member Ted Ladd, we founded the Energy Conservation Works, the only Joint Powers Board at that time created by a county, municipality and utilities provider. Public facilities, the schools, private residences and businesses have received grants and 0% - 2.5% loans to reduce energy use and reduce our carbon footprint. With a State of Wyoming Grant, ECW’s new fast-flow Compressed Natural Gas fill station opened at LVE for the public. All these measures have served to reduce the carbon footprint of our community making for cleaner air and environment that will benefit generations.
- Mary M. Martin: The Jackson/Teton County Comprehensive Plan’s vision is to “Preserve and protect the area’s ecosystem in order to ensure a healthy environment, community and economy for current and future generations.” What does “preserve and protect the area’s ecosystem” mean to you and what are three specific actions you think our community should take in the next four years to work toward this vision? I, as did dozens of other residents, expended much effort and time to participate in creating the Comprehensive Plan. Wisdom tells us that without a vision the people perish. Ensuring a healthy environment, community and economy for current and future generations requires thoughtful decision making, good data, astute analysis and good stewardship of our resources. I believe that if we take care of the land, the land will take care of us. A healthy sustainable environment is foundational to why we choose to live and work here. A healthy economy requires us to study the data, stay ahead of the inevitable changes in our world and choose to be good stewards of the myriad of resources which make Teton County uniquely wonderful.
Specific actions to take over the next four years include and are not limited to:
* Assess and evaluate the plan to ensure it is successfully moving us into the future. Is the health of our environment, the health of our community and the health of our economy improving? Do our citizens and our kids have hope for their future in our community? * Have critical conversations about what the future can become; * Continue our efforts to zero waste and improve educating our many visitors on our goals for achieving it; *Protect the water quality in our steams, creeks and rivers and mitigate stormwater runoff; *Maintain habitat quality within the corridors of our streams, creeks and rivers; * Work to create an awareness and desire for personal conservation goals for everyone in our community including educational programs in our schools; * Increase efforts to building meaningful bridges and bonds between the various groups and communities in our county. * We need to support our public land agencies to obtain the resources they need to manage our surrounding forests to ensure better sustainability for our wildlife, health of watersheds and forests.
- **Richard Aurelio: It means each and every decision made should start with the question: At what cost to the environment, wild life, open space, and Jackson lifestyle?
A. No new roads until existing roads are studied and improved to eliminate bottle necks to improve flow. Any new road should be justified on data driven demand, and answering the question: How will the "Induced Demand" from that road impact the environment, open space, and community life style.
B. START commuter service to the neighboring communities needs to be improved and expanded to allow for folks who work here and live there to make the commute easier, and make affordable market based housing more accessible.
C. Business has a responsibility to its owners, employees, customers and community...they should either pay a living wage, provide housing, or transportation because it is simply good business for them to do so....but since it has not happened yet... we should increase the mitigation rates to encourage that responsibility.
D. Don't up zone and give developers incentives to overdevelop...without significant compensation to the community. Snow King and Bar J are two examples of projects that are "taking from the community" and giving back precious little.
- Wes Gardner: Our community is full of residents (and many visitors) who long to be “part of the solution,” but who are trapped in a system that forces them to be “part of the problem.” Three specific actions come to mind: creating Park and Ride opportunities at Stilson and JHHS to service the Town of Jackson, adjusting the bus schedules to prioritize areas of density, and developing an option to remove plastics from our waste stream before they end up in a landfill.
My own anecdotal survey found that around one in seven vehicles around the valley carry just one person. Many of these drivers (including myself) would embrace a public transportation system if there was better access and more informed scheduling. I would work to utilize available assets (the Stilson and JHHS lots and over a dozen idle buses during the summer) in ways to create a more functional transit network for the residents and employees of Teton County and beyond. Additionally, I would work toward creating a solution for keeping our plastics out of the landfill. In this critical ecological moment, I find it essential that our local government develop real opportunities for our residents (and visitors) to be “part of the solution” instead of “part of the problem.”
- Sandy Ress: We have an incredibly valuable, relatively pristine eco-system and it is critical to protect it by controlling the impacts that population growth and tourism have on it. What three things would I do: (1) Encourage the Bridger-Teton Forest to resist oil and gas extraction, logging, amusement parks, etc. (2) Either keep the Palisades a Wilderness Study Area or just designate it as wilderness. (3) Stop allowing developments that adversely effects public lands and wildlife populations. And I can't resist adding (4) focus on water quality!
The County recently adopted the Wildlife Crossings Master Plan, which identifies wildlife- vehicle collision hot spots and offers suggestions for mitigation measures, like overpasses and underpasses. What do you see as the next steps for this Plan and how would you prioritize implementing wildlife crossings among our community priorities?
- Mark Newcomb: I definitely prioritize wildlife crossings. The commission should keep wildlife crossings on our capital improvement plan and ensure that a staff person (likely in engineering) is prepared to engage with WYDOT, landowners and other stakeholders at the first opportunity. I believe the first likely opportunity is a crossing beneath highway 22 when WYDOT replaces the Snake River Bridge. If this underpass needs funding, it should go on the next Specific Purpose Excise Ballot floated to the public. Public awareness needs to be sustained. Public-private partnerships between groups with expertise such as the JHCA and JH Wildlife Foundation should be nurtured so that as much expertise, publicity, and fund-raising capacity can be mobilized for both specific crossings and the broader effort.
- Andrew Byron: We need to take action on this as soon as possible. Similar crossings are very successful in neighboring communities. They need to be considered and implemented in the planning of all new roads and redesign of old ones.
- Seadar Rose Davis: I support the recommendations of the Wildlife Crossings Master Plan and commend all who were involved in bringing it to fruition. I believe the next steps should be to: 1 - design the wildlife crossings, 2 - bring private landowners and public agencies together to coordinate efforts, 3 - secure funding, and 4 - build overpasses/underpasses. Fundraising for these crossings will be essential and could include partnerships with private and public sectors. I would also support adding these measures to a future SPET ballot. The implementation of our wildlife crossings should be made in conjunction with other transportation efforts (START, traffic calming measures, reduced speeds in certain areas) to help reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions.
- Luther Propst: John Muir wrote: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe." With this thought in mind, I would both advance wildlife crossings and put into context of other conservation priorities. Our community needs to address a wide range of conservation priorities simultaneously and vigorously, striking a balance among competing needs and priorities. To this end, I would engage the public in creating a Conservation Action Plan (CAP), which will determine priorities among the full spectrum of conservation challenges (see website supplement for several potential priorities). Based upon the CAP, I would provide voters with the opportunity to determine whether to fund conservation measures through a conservation SPET measure. Furthermore, having spent almost 30 years raising funds for many community and conservation causes, I would also assist with community efforts to raise philanthropic funds to supplement SPET funds.
Potential challenges to address in a Conservation Action Plan include, but are not limited to:
> commuter bus routes and transit centers,
> energy efficiency and renewable energy,
> purchase (and retirement) of development rights (PDR),
> solid waste management,
> stewardship leases,
> transfer of development rights (TDR) and a TDR bank,
> water quality and river health,
> wildlife vehicle collisions (WVCs) and the Wildlife Crossing Master Plan.
- Mark Barron: Wildlife Crossings are coming but we should recognize that these will not be the panacea for the safety of wildlife and wildlife crossings will come with unintended consequences to our amazing viewsheds. It will be years before SPET money or other revenue streams are passed, sites are approved and construction is complete before wildlife enjoy the benefits of a single overpass. I will work toward these soltuions.
However, I would hope that our county commissioners would be willing to tackle the “low hanging fruit” measures that will serve protect wildlife immediately. Speed control with Speed Feedback signs are effective tools that, when used, will slow traffic and give drivers more time to see wildlife. Technological advances in lighting have produced non-night-sky polluting lights that can be used in high incident locations around the valley, such as, HWY 390, the intersection of HWY’s 390 & 22, at historic wildlife / vehicle incidents along 22, South Park Loop Rd, and Snake River Canyon. The town council voted to place these very lights along W Broadway where mule deer were hit by vehicles crossing the highway. These lights have greatly reduced wildlife deaths. Eventually Wildlife Overpasses can help but these measures can be implemented immediately.
- Mary M. Martin: I suggest we begin with the end in mind. How will we measure effectiveness of the mitigation measures to ensure that the choices we make are truly making a difference? The report rightly suggests that “the exact location, length or number, or type and dimensions of the mitigation measures is dependent upon public support, agreements with private landowners and land management agencies and the availability of funding”.
Our next steps should begin with:
*Identify the stakeholders (the landowners, land management agencies, WGF, WYDOT and possible funders) to develop a scope of public support; *Request a recommendation from the stakeholder group as how and where we should begin this effort; *Request creative options for how the mitigation effort(s) can be funded, assessed and evaluated.
The importance of this effort could garner both philanthropic and nonprofit interest along with federal and state grant sources to ensure that we can accomplish these mitigation efforts.
- **Richard Aurelio: It should be ahead of building a new bus barn, and money should be trimmed from existing budgets to fund this important and much needed project.
- Wes Gardner: I live in Game Creek, so I have personally witnessed the carnage that results from vehicle-wildlife collisions. We must do whatever we reasonably can to reduce the toll our vehicles have on wildlife. Wildlife crossings are an important tool we must utilize if we expect to see changes, but they are not the only tool. Again, if we can find ways to convert some percentage of our single-occupancy vehicles to bus riders, we could actually reduce the number of vehicles on our roads. Depending on the costs, I would consider adding wildlife crossings to each of the seven sections that were part of the Master Plan.
- Sandy Ress: I support the use of overpasses and underpasses but we cannot put them everywhere. Having identified wildlife-vehicle collision hotspots, we must find solutions for places where passes are not feasible. Options include fences, reduced speeds, reflective elk and moose alongside the roads, warning signs, flashing lights, etc. However, I would want to know way more about what has been tried elsewhere, and what has/has not worked, before I rank alternatives.
I don't think we have our community priorities right: My emphasis would be on human services like medical; assisting the least fortunate among us with food, housing, education, jobs and training; and helping families that are being displaced by the cost of living here. Stopping the "Aspenization" of Jackson Hole. Wildlife and the environment come next. Pathways, pets (and I own a pet store), street-art, etc. are down the list.
Our community established a goal through the Comprehensive Plan of housing at least 65% of our workforce locally. The recent Housing Action Plan identified a need of 800 units over 10 years just to “catch up” with the existing workforce housing deficit, and 2000 more to “keep up” with employment growth. How would you use tools including mitigation, zoning, and incentives to balance commercial growth with workforce housing?
- Mark Newcomb: I support requirements that new commercial development should reasonably mitigate its housing impacts. I posit that’s about a 55% requirement for new jobs paying less than 200% of Area Median Income. Incentives, such as reduced parking requirements and workforce bonuses should be used too. That said, in the county, we should be cautious about up-zoning. The two-lane Moose-Wilson road that has no designated wildlife crossings and no good options for such crossings (south of John Dodge anyway) already has a suburban density. I don’t believe we should be adding density there. Hog Island, along a 5-lane highway with wildlife crossings makes more sense for modest, work-force specific additional housing arranged so that it minimizes impacts on neighbors and wildlife. Out of necessity, our priority for housing does need to be on core services broadly defined: public safety, health, education, and community welfare workers. But hitting that goal still means bringing a lot of resources to bear, including public tax dollars. Any open plot of land in the county is likely worth a great deal on the open market and will almost certainly require a subsidy to make any housing built on it available to the workforce. Creativity, public private partnerships and community resolve are critical to support such efforts.
- Andrew Byron: The recently passed mitigation rate is too high. While I appreciate the goal of housing at least 65% of our workforce locally, it is hard to figure out how that goal will be reached with these mitigation rates. The county, without significant help from private partners, will never come close to “catching up” with employment growth. In working towards a true 65%, the BCC needs to take a hard look at zoning and make changes where needed to allow for the private sector to step in. If we allow the private sector to assist in our workforce housing goals, we will be making strides towards our 65% goal while also supporting the small businesses and entrepreneurs that make Teton County great.
- Seadar Rose Davis: I think the key to hitting these targets will be to make sure we are using a mix of all of these tools. I am hopeful that new mitigation rates recently passed by the county will result in more workforce residential development. We need to make sure we are monitoring the outcome of these new rates and adjust them if they are not producing the outcome we want. It will take the effort of both the public and private sectors to get to our goal, and it is essential that developers and employers take part in this responsibility. I support focusing our efforts on rental units within complete neighborhoods, with more dense units in town. The health of our community is dependent on a vibrant workforce, so we need to do everything we can to ensure our workforce can live in Teton County.
- Luther Propst: I will work to maintain a substantial resident workforce and the social and economic diversity that has long characterized Jackson Hole. Workforce housing keeps our economy functioning, provides volunteers for non-profit organizations, and sustains quality of life for the middle class. The numerical goal of 65% provides a point of reference, admittedly somewhat arbitrary, but that allows us to measure progress. This complex challenge of providing workforce housing and a balanced community vexes popular destinations across the country and throughout the world. There are no silver bullets. We must encourage creative ideas and respond rapidly to fast-moving opportunities; to this end, my priorities include three elements:
1. Focus on both workforce housing supply and demand. We just can’t accommodate everyone who may want to move here, especially with a rapidly changing climate that is already changing the winter snowscape in the Western United States and with technology increasingly allowing people to live and work virtually anywhere. In 2017, Teton County experienced 3.5% job growth; at that rate, the number of jobs doubles in 20 years. That rate of growth is contrary to my vision for Teton County. The county should prioritize workforce housing rather than land use changes that create new jobs.
2. Foster partnerships to provide workforce housing. Partnerships should engage local governments, employers, landowners, lenders, and both private and non-profit developers. Teton County’s highest priority should be to allocate consistent funding to provide housing for county employees, especially critical service providers and other key positions (which helps retain talent and improves the overall affordable housing market). This funding can support multi-party partnerships to provide housing for the local workforce.
3. Improve transportation choices for people who work in Teton County and reside in neighboring counties. Under any realistic scenario, a significant percentage of Teton County’s workforce will choose to live in neighboring counties. We should improve the transit system to make it more convenient for these people to ride the bus, thereby reducing traffic congestion on roads in Teton County and providing a wider range of realistic housing choices for people who work in Teton County.
- Mark Barron: The goal of 65% workforce housing continues to elude Teton County. The recently passed mitigation rates, prescription housing and financial expense were set intentionally high to ensure that NO workforce housing can be created. As mayor in 2008 , I encouraged the town council to move the affordable and employee mitigation from 15% to 25%. This was not a 10% increase but a 66% increase in the mitigation rate. We met pushback from developers and businesses but ultimately it was possible to meet the new 25% rate and create quality housing. Mixed use commercial / housing projects were able to be developed through the Planned Mixed Used Development tool which gave higher density for community benefits, such as an increase over 25% in workforce housing, underground parking, and energy efficiency measures. In these cases, an increase in zoning density enabled an increase in Built workforce housing. The business community has produced the vast majority of workforce housing with no fanfare and, given adequate zoning, are prepared to do more. We must zone for workforce housing if we are to achieve it. We must allow 4 stories to Planned Unit Development in order to deed restrict one story for deed restricted housing and I would ask that more of these residential projects be incentivized to fill our rental pool adequately. Please know that these measures are contrived as “Growth” in this “No Growth” climate. But if you want workforce housing, the zoning must enable it.
- Mary M. Martin: First of all, if I’m reading the question correctly, you are indicating that we will need to build 10,000 additional housing units to keep up. I understand the current scenario as --the county has 800 affordable units, we need to develop 280 additional units a year over the next 10 years to catch up...which is a total of 3600 units. If the average number of residents per unit is 2.8 people, that equates to an additional 7,840 people residing in the Town of Jackson. The impact would result in many new people on our existing roadways, pathways, using our social services, schools, day care, etc. If it is a foregone conclusion that the Town of Jackson is the sole recipient of this density, I believe a review of the Comp Plan will be necessary.
It is common sense that everyone who wants to live in Teton County cannot live here. The simple fact exists - we aren’t producing additional land. This is why I believe we need to begin conversations with our neighboring communities to plan regionally. We cannot continue to kick our housing issue down the road. A challenge is that our neighbors do not embrace being a “bedroom community” to Teton County as their ideal vision for their own community plan.
I believe the solution to our housing crisis is not developing better or more detailed regulations. It lies in allowing creativity, collaboration and the market influences to produce what they very capably can create. There is a place for “government” in the development of our housing need; however, I don’t believe the government should become the sole housing developer - rather we should design a system in which the county becomes a partner in designing a way forward to the housing solution. The government should lead the discussion to frame the county’s need, and subsequently, as needed, work with — private landowners, philanthropists, private investors and nonprofits. Given that we have planned ourselves into a situation with less than 1% of our land being available for any future development, including housing, the county should consider adjustments to the LDR’s and use necessary tools such as deed restrictions to ensure the housing inventory remains available and attainable for the individuals living and working here.
The real question we need to answer is not how many units we need to ensure workforce housing opportunities, but rather how we ensure that our efforts to address housing achieve our common values of reducing ecosystem impacts and increasing quality of life at the same time. If future housing is not being made available for the workforce, the workers will still need to come each day to fill the jobs, compounding our transportation issues and impacting ecosystem impacts. The benefit comes in keeping our workers here each night, limiting traffic on the roads, while increasing community volunteerism, investment, and the chance for the children of the community to stay in the community.
I am saddened that the new mitigation could result in mom and pop businesses becoming casualties of this mitigation plan. The vote is in and the mitigation plan going forward has been articulated; however, I believe a wise organization evaluates its programs and plans and takes corrective action. We need to ensure that our community is sustainable, which implies that our businesses can afford to do business here. I realize that there are a number of “visions” for what is Jackson Hole. My definition of a sustainable successful community is outlined on my website. My vision is a Teton County that is an amazing place to call home.
I serve on the Board of Directors of Pioneer Homestead where we have built and manage three low income senior and handicapped housing units. I understand the challenges and collaboration necessary to create housing units. I have been championing the need for affordable sustainable housing for our community since 1975 and believe a few dedicated people can solve seemingly impossible things! The County Commissioners must use whatever tools are available to us to remove barriers to proceeding forward to address our housing issues.
I am running for County Commissioner because I want our kids to have a hope of living and working in their home town community.
- **Richard Aurelio: START should expand commuter routes and business's should pay for their employees to use the service. 65% is a goal...but not sure sustainable as we run out of land, and building more affordable housing can only be done with up zoning changes that are counter to being diligent stewards of the environment, open space, and wild life.
- Wes Gardner: For starters, housing 65% of our local workforce is a nice ideal, but we should not measure success or failure by it. Working towards this goal requires that we utilize all tools at our disposal to develop and promote the development of workforce housing, including mitigation. I also recognize that when our local officials dabble with mitigation rates they dramatically impact the marketplace. When we effectively triple existing mitigation rates for commercial development, I suggest that we are doing more harm than good for our community.
While not ignoring the 65% goal, I would like to see us do a better job of using our bus assets to service the hundreds of employees who commute from Alpine and Victor and beyond. At the moment, most of the riders who commute from Victor arrive at the areas of employment density either from 7:02-7:06AM or 8:02-8:06AM, meaning that they are either 2-6 minutes late or 50+ minutes early for work. In the meantime, I would support a new subdivision somewhere in the valley where it has minimal effect on wildlife corridors. Also, I believe that we should find a way to develop a large, hundred plus unit apartment building. It could be developed either as a rent-controlled, publicly-owned asset or as a private enterprise with restrictions that it be dedicated to folks who work in Teton County.
- Sandy Ress: The goal of housing 65% of our workforce locally is totally unrealistic, has been rejected by most segments of our Community, and I don't support it. Although I'm ok with some growth (St. John's or the school district adding a new wing, facility or employee housing), I'm completely against unfettered residential and commercial growth. And if we do have growth, it should be residential - not commercial. Those who want to make money by starting a business should create housing for their employees. What else would I do: no more (1) re-zones from residential to commercial, and where possible, the property should revert back to residential, (2) variances. One of my first proposals to the Board would be to adopt a rule-change requiring any significant variance to require a 4-1 or 5-0 vote, (3) density bonuses, (5) "Coney Islanding" of our Valley. Finally, (5) limiting annual property tax increases.
It has been six years since the completion and adoption of the Comprehensive Plan, and we have since hit the 6% growth trigger that signals the need for its review. What would your goals be with a review and would you consider any changes to the Plan? If so, what?
- Mark Newcomb: Sadly there are two aspects of the plan that merit review: one is the goal to house 65% of the workforce. We likely do not have sufficient funding to ensure we meet that goal. Housing built through mitigation requirements and fees in lieu will not get us there alone. And the public may be unwilling to commit much more in the way of tax dollars. Citizens voted down a sixth penny of sales tax targeting housing and transportation and have even been hesitant to approve a sixth penny of SPET targeting town and county employee housing. Private organizations such as the Housing Trust and Habitat will continue to bring private philanthropy to the table. Hopefully the public sector will follow their lead and be a supportive partner where we can. Opening the supply pipeline to try and grow our way out of the problem risks that new development will likely be out of reach of most workers. The 21 acres at the Bar J Chuckwagon site were priced as high as $16 million dollars. Making up for that cost, plus the cost of construction, plus ensuring a reasonable risk-weighted return would make it very hard to build workforce housing without a level of density that would be out of character with the surrounding neighborhood and that would add substantial traffic. The second is the Plan’s commitment to “connector” roads such as Tribal Trail (TTC). The public process over the TTC may play out in a way that results in the community rejecting the current transportation commitment to a north bridge and a south park connector paralleling high school road. If we do not have the stomach to ad connectors, we obviously need to redouble efforts to relieve congestion on the trunk lines. And, as they are in WYDOT’s purview, we may see them widened sooner rather than later.
- Andrew Byron: The Comprehensive plan needs to be a working document and something that the BCC reviews biannually. With a working document, we can continue to ensure that the Comprehensive Plan fits our evolving county and no time becomes stale or outdated.
- Seadar Rose Davis: As a community, we need to take a step back and look at the broader picture of what we want the community to look like in 10/20/30 years. Have we followed through with the vision that was set forth by our commissioners in 2012? In a thriving economy, growth is inevitable, and a positive for many of our local businesses. But there’s always a tradeoff. What does this mean for our infrastructure? Are we keeping up with traffic flow mitigation and wildlife protection? Can our social services meet current and future demands? I would consider revisions to the Plan based on the real growth that we’ve experienced in the last six years versus how that has played out.
- Luther Propst: Some 20 years ago, I co-authored a book entitled Balancing Nature and Commerce in Gateway Communities (Island Press). White dated, this book still articulates pretty well my overall principles for managing growth in Teton County and similar communities. If you would like a copy, the library has a copy for loan or give me a call. In short, the key is to balance competing priorities: wildlife, community character, housing, and prosperity. The key take-away is the importance of striking a balance among competing priorities: protecting wildlife and community character, providing opportunities for workforce housing, and promoting a dynamic and prosperous economy.
A Conservation Action Plan would engage the public to evaluate and set priorities among a wide range of conservation challenges:
> commuter bus routes and transit centers,
> energy efficiency and renewable energy,
> purchase (and retirement) of development rights (PDR),
> solid waste management,
> stewardship leases,
> transfer of development rights (TDR) and a TDR bank,
> water quality and river health,
> wildlife vehicle collisions (WVCs) and the Wildlife Crossing Master Plan.
- Mark Barron: There are some 4,000 platted lots outside the Town of Jackson in Teton County. These are all permitted to build residentially. The zoning changes required by the Comprehensive Masterplan have moved at glacial speeds. Local Government has created layers of new town & county employees, bureaucracy at every level, studying away and growing, growing, growing government employees. However, the recently passed mitigation rates and measures on the business community will stop development and associated workforce housing. Let’s see where that takes us. Also, I will examine the growing budget and workforce of Teton County and be prepared to recommend cuts to both in hopes of increasing efficacy and decreasing this growing government labor pool.
- Mary M. Martin: I am interested in an assessment of the efficiency of how citizens are able to work their way through the Comprehensive Plan. Is it a workable plan? What are realistic time lines for our citizens to experience? Citizens are telling me their experience tends to indicate that the comp plan’s purpose was to stop growth. I don’t believe that was our purpose, and if that is what the plan is being used to accomplish, we need a correction in policy. A conversation about realistic time lines and a better understanding of what to expect when working with our planning and building departments is needed. Waiting months and even years to get approval through a planning process is not acceptable.
A planning document is intended to help design and create a plan for a future, not stop it. It should be a living document. Healthy organizations self-assess, evaluate and make corrective adjustments to their goals and processes. None of us are omnipotent, consequently considering changes to the Plan seem not only plausible, they are necessary to ensure that we are continuing on the correct course to provide for community we desire... Preserve and protect the area’s ecosystem in order to ensure a healthy environment, community and economy for current and future generations.”
- **Richard Aurelio: I do believe the comprehensive plan should be reviewed in a transparent and inclusive manner with the entire community...not done by out of state consultants a directed by staff to predetermined outcomes.
It should culminate with a community vote on the most controversial issues that would arise from that review...like the ITP; 65% work force housing goal; zoning changes.
- Wes Gardner: The Comp Plan weighs in at just under 400 pages. We need to be careful not to throw any babies out with the bath water. In our review of the Plan, we should exercise restraint, respecting the intentions of those who drew it up a mere six years ago. We should also consider that much of the 6% growth is an effect of the heat of the general economy which is likely unsustainable. In other words, just because we hit a trigger does not mean that the Plan is not a success. I further argue that until we feel the effects of the new zoning changes and mitigation rates, any amendments to the Comp Plan would be premature. These recent policy changes are dramatic and will have significant impacts in our community. We should wait for the dust to settle before embarking on any significant changes to our Comp Plan.
- Sandy Ress: It is clear the Comp Plan doesn't and won't control the growth we have witnessed and does not do nearly enuf to protect our wildlife, forests, parks, etc. In revisiting the Plan, our goal should be to only allow minimal growth while fostering an economically sustainable community. And in the process, we should quit paying lip-service to the idea we're protecting wildlife when we aren't doing nearly as much as we could be doing.
Snow King recently released a new development proposal to expand the resort boundaries, build new chairlifts outside the existing footprint, and add new amenities and additional condos. What do you envision for the future of our Town Hill, and what role should the Town Council/Board of County Commissioners play in achieving that vision?
- Mark Newcomb: The county should be a cooperating agency. The commission needs to discuss our vision as a whole in order to provide comment. Personally, I interpret the community’s commitment made during the crafting of the Comprehensive Plan to not expand resorts to mean that the boundaries should not be expanded. The final say is up to the Forest Service on that issue. I believe the land development regulations take a wholistic view of resorts: they allow resorts to utilize a natural amenity for economic development in return for public benefit. Snow King’s plans should strive for that balance.
- Andrew Byron: The BCC needs to protect county resources throughout the development at Snow King. Protecting private property rights, while working with the developers on properties we share, is important to all involved. I learned to ski at Snow King in 1988 and am so proud that I still have the opportunity to coach on that hill today. We need to do a better job working with the owners/developers, as it is an asset that is critical to the success of many in town and the county.
- Seadar Rose Davis: Snow King’s expansion should reflect a balance between what stockholders feel is necessary to succeed and what the community’s vision is of an in-town resort within our national forest. Additional lifts are often times necessary for a ski resort to compete with other resorts, and Snow King (like JHMR) has decades of investment on which to build upon and upgrade towards modern standards. But plans for expansion need to be in line with our Comprehensive Plan.
There are many questions to be sorted out … How will this affect public access to the national forest and public land beyond the existing footprint? What is the impact on the wildlife in the area? Will these amenities make JH a destination for amusement park type activities? How will an increased demand on our town hill affect traffic and transportation needs in the area? The process for Snow King’s expansion needs to be transparent and include the input of all stakeholders and the community.
- Luther Propst: I will make it a priority for Teton County to work with Snow King management, Town of Jackson, Bridger Teton National Forest, conservation and recreation non-profit organizations, and other partners to identify and pursue creative approaches and partnerships for ensuring that Snow King Mountain remains our “town hill” while protecting the area’s wildlife and community character.
- Mark Barron: So far, I see no on mountain improvement that doesn’t enhance the visitor and local mountain experience. I would examine the SKRMA association to see if it fulfills its responsibilities within the Snow King Resort Masterplan.
- Mary M. Martin: My vision for our Town Hill is that it continues to be just that--the Town Hill. I realize that as a resort, we share our resources with our visitors; however, I hope any future development does not price the availability and use of the Town Hill from our local population. The community has supported the development of the amenities on Snow King with the intention and understanding that these are community amenities. Ownership may change; however, the community’s contribution to Snow King should not be negotiated away with change of ownership. We who live in the shadow of Snow King should have access to the what she provides.
Conversations about how our community character is impacted are taking place. We need to be mindful about our history when a few families collaborated to install a tow rope on Snow King, so our community members could have an accessible place to ski. I am for the free market; however, as I’ve stated, not everyone who wants to live here can and not every idea of how to capitalize on our resources can become a reality. The Town and County’s role should be to ensure that conversations about what can be developed on our town hill balance what has taken place, what should take place and most importantly, what place does Snow King play in helping us maintain our community. We need to ensure that decisions for our future are made through the filter of ensuring that Teton County is an amazing place to call home.
- **Richard Aurelio: Snow King expansion has already gone too far and at too great a cost to the community for the benefit the community has received. It is no longer a local ski hill for the ski team to practice...it is now a massive billion dollar potential development that if taken over to the East Side...will do irreparable damage to that wild life habitat. As county commissioner I would not support that expansion. To the extent possible I would negotiate a harder line on development of the front side...not allowing the new gondola base to be placed on public land, and holding them to the deal they signed in 97.
- Wes Gardner: As your County Commissioner, I will consider the Snow King Expansion Project granularly. I view the argument that Snow King must expand or die as highly suspect. The Town and County officials should negotiate from a position of strength, ensuring that all expansions be subject to hefty mitigation requirements. We should not actively promote further short-term rental development along the base of Snow King without requiring development of extensive workforce housing. Previous local officials have certainly provided us with a blueprint for how not to do things, as the development at the base of the hill on Cache St, was built to service short-term rentals with very little mitigation for development of workforce housing. We must ensure that our future officials will not suffer the same lack of judgement.
- Sandy Ress: I'm appalled at what the Town and County seem to have thus far offered to Snow King. In my mind, Snow King should be given a choice: either operate as the Town Hill we all knew and loved and you'll receive our help or decide to be a big business and figure out how to do it on your own without our money, tax breaks, land grabs and giveaways. The Town and County must learn to say "NO," not just to Snow King, but to other developers who want to do things like tear down Cafe Genevieve, replace it with a large hotel and save a few old buildings in exchange for an extra floor. Does that sound like a fair trade? Not to me! How about all the variances the Classic Academy will request. Just Say No! And that's what our electeds should have done so many times before.
The County is in the process of updating our Natural Resource Protections, and Town will update theirs in 2019 – this includes new Natural Resource Tiers, regulations to prevent bears from getting into garbage, and protections for rivers and streams. What would you like to see included in this update?
- Mark Newcomb: Private property rights should be acknowledged—new regs shouldn’t take away development rights. But natural resource protections should ask new development to avoid impacting important habitat, minimize impacts to important habitat and mitigate impacts when they are created. I tend to favor mitigation fees going into a mitigation bank over on-site mitigation. Banked impact fees, deployed in partnership with the private sector, may create the most effective, durable, contiguous mitigation projects where it matters the most. Water quality protections are vital, and hopefully the new pond regulations will address issues around ponds.
- Andrew Byron: Each animal we save, whether it be a bear from human trash or a deer from a bumper, is a win for everyone. Continued work on wildlife crossings/underpasses, as well as bear education in all of Teton County, is critical to taking steps towards natural resource protections. Flat Creek has also started to get increasing attention from non profits and interested community members. It spans a large portion of our county, so improvement and protection of Flat Creek needs to be priority for the BCC in the immediate future.
- Seadar Rose Davis: I am particularly concerned with the degradation of our waterways and how we will address these issues with new regulations and development. I would like to see smaller, currently unprotected streams added to these protections, as their health impacts the overall quality of our waterways and habitat function. It’s important that these updates protect our natural resources with clearer and more predictable regulations for property owners. As a community, we have a responsibility to steward our public lands and protect our natural resources. These protections are one of the ways we do that, but I am also continually amazed by our community’s willingness to voluntarily conserve land and enhance wildlife habitat and resources on private property.
- Luther Propst: With respect to updating the county’s Natural Resource Protections, rather than to suggest my top substantive priorities, my first step would be to advocate for establishing a Teton County conservation commission or advisory board to advise the county commission and the broad community on: (a) land use planning, transportation, and community development; (b) public lands, rivers, and wildlife; and (c) implementation of the Conservation Action Plan. I would also propose that the county reorganize departments to create a conservation department with scientific expertise to provide professional support for the conservation commission and the county commission. Ideally, this new department and commission would be a joint effort with the Town of Jackson and perhaps other governmental agencies.
- Mark Barron: I would not support any mandating of Natural Resource Overlay measures in the Town of Jackson or in any Complete Neighborhood in Teton County. Appropriate education of these issues made available to specifically troubled neighborhoods should give homeowners the tools with which they may reduce wildlife interactions.
- Mary M. Martin: Water quality is an issue that I believe should be a priority. We have so many components of our lives affecting our streams, creeks and rivers - snow run off, stormwater run-off, wildfires, manmade water features, the ever-increasing commercialization of our water ways, residual pharmaceuticals, and unfortunately fecal matter from wildlife, pets, and most distressingly, people.
Our forests are ripe for a fire incident. Low intensity fires have less negative effect on water sheds than high intensity fires. Wildlands fire mitigation should be a county priority. We, as residents of this community, need to understand and value how each of us can do our part to eliminate wildlife/human incidents. Years ago, I received a call in my office from a resident in the village who had had a bear get into his home. Seriously, any of us would be very distressed about awaking to a bear rummaging through our kitchen. The solution was simple once the access point was realized - remove the doggy door. Because something is a good idea does not necessitate a regulation be developed. Each regulation requires oversight and enforcement - both bring a cost to government.
There is a committee working on the development of the Natural Resource Protections. As a commissioner, I will consider the recommendations of the experts and comments from the landowners and community members in the adoption of regulations. We need to facilitate meaningful connections with each other. Some of us are very familiar with the territory and some are clueless. Having crucial conversations and increasing understanding of best practices on the land will take us to the place of living wisely with our resources much more efficiently than regulations.
- **Richard Aurelio: We have the best natural resources (wildlife, land, water) in the lower 48... so we should have the best natural resource protections (land development regulations) in the lower 48 too.
While the stakeholder group is still in the process of negotiating the details, as of yet there's no easy answer to what should be done... but it's all a balance between protecting natural resources and honoring property rights. My position is we should go as far as legally possible to protect natural resources, without violating property rights. There are many sub-issues like whether all garbage cans should be bear-proof (I think yes) that are easier to resolve.
- Wes Gardner: We must find a balance between protecting critical habitat and allowing private property owners to develop their lands as they wish. While I appreciate the nuance behind the “tiered protections,” I suggest that these tiers are based on the wrong criteria. Instead of basing tiers solely on development types, we should consider the “boots on the ground, site specific” analyses to create additional guidelines for what development is responsible for a particular project. Further, I’m concerned about a couple of the exceptions for certain development types. Why, for example should agricultural operations, which I imagine contribute a much greater share of water pollution than any other development type, be exempt from county approved protection standards? As critical as they may be, why should emergency public works be exempted? If we all agree that protecting natural environments is so important, why should any entity be exempted?
- Sandy Ress: The most important thing we can do is enforce the rules we already have in place. There is no point in creating new rules if we simply wink at violations. So, let's start there. Next, more protection for wildlife. If I am right, 40% of all new development can occur in wildlife areas. WHY? That is way too much if we truly value wildlife habitat. I would lower that percentage significantly if it can be done legally. Let's eliminate density bonuses that effect wildlife. Tear down more fencing that obstructs wildlife movement. There's no end to the things we could do if we really had the will.
Our community has also established the goal of 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 projects, programs, and policies from the Integrated Transportation Plan should we prioritize over the next four years to continue on our journey toward this goal?
- Mark Newcomb: Immediate efforts to address non-vehicle travel should focus on peak hours of congestion. This means adding commuter runs where there is demand such as over Teton Pass. Medium measures should include making Stilson a more effective transit center, continued commitment to pathways where they are most effective (completing the Highway 22 project east of Wilson), managed parking and building a maintenance and bus storage facility. Longer term we need to focus on how we manage growth in terms of how much new residential development and where. Arranging new housing development so that it is near basic services at a minimum is critical in allowing people to conveniently take care of their daily needs without getting in a car on the road. Finally, we need to keep an eye on the future, whether that includes including driverless car infrastructure as we upgrade roads or adapting to better utilize ride-sharing, hitch-hiking and various e-transportation technologies (e-bikes, etc).
- Andrew Byron: We always need to be working with START and supporting them in the hard work they do. START continues to see record ridership, yet I still have many friends and colleagues who don’t ever use START. Grassroots support of this incredible county resource is critical. Utilizing and expanding pathways is also vital as different pedal options for biking become more accessible to everyone. We need to complete Tribal Trails while working with the Tribal Trails Stakeholder Advisory Group, among others, to most efficiently and thoughtfully move forward with this project.
- Seadar Rose Davis: Public transportation (START) is a large piece of this puzzle. I support expanding our commuter routes, increasing summer service from Stilson to Teton Village, and adding routes to areas in the county not currently serviced by START. In order to make expansion a reality, we will need to finish building the maintenance facility and secure a dedicated funding source for START. We should be adding more outreach to visitors before their trip to highlight all of the alternative modes of transportation available to them, including our transit system, pathways and START Bike. We can also continue to look at ways to improve our infrastructure with more effective intersections, reduced speeds on certain roads, sidewalk improvements and traffic calming solutions. With that said, I believe the most pressing need right now is hiring a Transportation Planner to help us move forward with implementing the goals outlined in the ITP.
- Luther Propst: If you plan cities for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic. If you plan for people and places, you get people and places. – Fred Kent.
Many studies document that new road construction only unleashes latent demand for driving: more road capacity leads to more traffic because driving becomes faster, easier and cheaper. In our valley, new and wider roads also are more likely to relocate, rather than remediate, traffic congestion.
Increasing the percentage of commuters and residents who choose to ride the bus is:
> More economical than building new road capacity,
> Most consistent with protecting our community and neighborhoods,
> Most friendly to wildlife, and
> Most likely to reduce (rather than merely relocate) congestion.
Transit centers can significantly improve the convenience and utilization of commuter bus service, with community amenities such as day care, Zipcar type car rental, ski and bicycle lockers, secure parking for crew trucks, an all-weather waiting area. Also, we can improve commuter bus utilization by creating more seamless and efficient connections between commuter and local bus service.
START should also evaluate use of smaller buses, van-pooling, and ride-share to serve in-town routes and the establishment of convenient, timely, and reliable bus or van service to/from the airport.
More than 125 transit systems operate within national parks around the country. These systems work well to reduce congestion, promote local economic prosperity, and improve the experience of visitors at Acadia, Zion, Denali and many other national parks. A summer system can work here to reduce traffic congestion, improve the experience of our visitors, and support local businesses.
I am not enamored of a “roads first” approach to reducing congestion, including the proposed Tribal Trails bypass, the East West connector, or the North Bridge, because high speed roads increase traffic, subsidize sprawling development, increase wildlife road kill, and do not reduce congestion in the long term. Disclosure: my residence borders the proposed Tribal Trails connector or bypass.
- Mark Barron: I provided needed leadership as mayor, working with the town council, county commissioners, staff and other agencies that resulted in a huge increase in START ridership and significantly increased the miles of detached paved pathways across the valley and into GTNP. These measures required federal dollars and meeting with our Wyoming congressional delegation to help secure these funds. Specifically, START rolling stock should invest in natural gas fueled busses at a marginal increase to the cost of diesel busses. This rolling stock will reduce our carbon footprint while providing the additional busses to increase commuter service, more summer frequency to Stilson and Teton Village, and expand service to Rafter J, Melody Ranch and possibly Hoback Jct.
I would support working with Teton Village Association, JH Mountain Resort and TC School Board, to masterplan Stilson as a year-round transit hub, a site for a new school and athletic fields for West Bank youth. A dedicated bus line to the West Bank and Teton Village is not possible until and unless HWY 22 is provided additional lanes and additional lanes are provided over the Snake River. I would then support a roundabout at the junction of the Teton Village Rd.
- Mary M. Martin: “The mission of Teton County, Wyoming government is to support the well-being of its residents by providing responsive and efficient services; providing programs that contribute to public health, safety, and welfare...”. “Safety” is the key word – providing safety on our roads, pathways, and walkways is paramount. Whether this means widening our roads to create separate bus lanes, building more roads to create redundancy or improve traffic flow, creating more sidewalks that are safer for our senior citizens, or building a north bridge across the Snake River – we should prioritize all these projects and begin work on our top priority.
We have created an enviable system of pathways, and I would like a priority in developing plans for how we maintain what we have.
With ridership on START reaching 1 million this past year, the START board, and staff are to be applauded. I think we need to understand why the community did not support START on the SPET ballot this last go around. There is a high need for increased understanding of what this program provides to the community as well as how START’s ridership contributes to reducing the transportation gridlock the county faces. Misinformation and lack of awareness need to be a major focus for moving forward with our ITP. Our bus drivers are unsung heroes in our community! They represent the face of hospitality and neighborliness.
The START Bike was a creative addition to reaching our ITP. The START board and the TAC should be encouraged to continue their creative thinking.
Regarding transit improvements, I advocate for a full-fledged transit center at Stilson where START commuter service could focus on additional commuter runs to relieve peak hour congestion as well as provide services to outlying communities. The challenge would be affording the 2015 estimated cost of $3 million that included athletic fields. The support for this transit hub funding could come from the general fund, grants or putting it on a SPET ballot. Additionally, we must address the need of an additional transit hub to provide for START users coming into the county from Lincoln County, and heading from town to Stilson.
We need a public relations campaign to promote residents to reduce the number of daily vehicle trips, or to choose to use alternative modes of transportation to get around the county. The residents of the Town and County need to realize that we are part of the problem.
- **Richard Aurelio: The bike path system is terrific..and now we need to focus on maintaining it as there are many place that are becoming dangerous. Improve START commuter service to expand work force housing options, take cars off the road, and make the commute easier.
- Wes Gardner: Having developed bike paths around the valley, we must complete a comprehensive set of routes through town so that the system functions as a whole. I would consider removing street parking from certain streets in order to better accommodate bikers and walkers. More importantly, we MUST develop a more robust and functional bus system. The parking lot at Stilson is empty all summer, even as hundreds of employees stream over Teton Pass and into the downtown area every day for work. Meanwhile in the summer, up to a dozen buses sit idle in our new bus barn. Further, many routes are dysfunctional simply because they are not built to serve the areas of greatest density. Our system is desperately underutilized. By developing a Park and Ride option at Stilson for travel to downtown, by utilizing the parking lot at JHHS in the summer as another Park and Ride for employees driving up from the south, and by tweaking the schedules of most lines so that they reach areas of density in the ten minutes before the hour, we can create a more functional and effective commuter system which I am convinced that the residents of Teton County are dying for. We are privileged to live in a community full of folks who hate being “part of the problem.” It is up to our local leaders to ensure that our taxpayer-funded assets are being utilized in ways to allow us to avoid being “part of the problem.”
- Sandy Ress: Here are my views on transportation: (1) Although I am an avid road-bike rider, to me, pathways are primarily (not entirely) about recreation and should occupy a much lower priority than they do. We certainly should not be diverting funds to bike paths that could be used for human services. (2) START is a black hole and we must reevaluate where it does and does not make sense to operate buses, how much government should contribute toward it, what part of the cost-per-rider riders should pay, especially those using buses in Town (we should be subsidizing workers who come here from outlying areas), and whether we should subsidize the Mountain Resort and Teton Village Association who want to get skiers to the Village. But if we simply stopped increasing tourism and our population, this question would probably not be in this questionnaire.
What is your vision for the future of our Teton County federal lands, and what is your perspective on the ongoing region-wide effort to transfer control of our federal public lands to the states?
- Mark Newcomb: I envision a well-funded Park Service, Forest Service and BLM that has the capacity to develop management plans in a timely manner, enforce management and maintain infrastructure and access. This will help ensure healthy and vibrant public lands that are healthy and resilient.
- Andrew Byron: Teton County federal lands need to stay in the same ownership they currently are in. There are many reasons to keep federal lands in federal hands. One glaring reason is neither the state, nor the county, could ever take ownership as the cost would be economically unfeasible.
- Seadar Rose Davis: Federal public lands belong to all Americans and as such should remain in public hands. It’s imperative that these lands and national parks be protected for current and future generations, and these are best managed at the federal level. These lands are our natural heritage and should be protected for the enjoyment of us all.
- Luther Propst: Teton County is 97% public lands. These lands are the foundation for our economy and quality
of life, as well as for our regional wildlife, fisheries, and the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem. These public lands must remain in public hands. With so much at stake locally, Teton County should play an active role in resisting efforts to:
> transfer public lands or management of these lands to states or directly to private enterprise,
> repeal or eviscerate our nation’s bedrock conservation laws,
> defund the Land and Water Conservation Fund,
> undermine morale among public land managers, and
> underfund the agencies that manage and protect our public lands.
Approximately half of Teton County is on the Bridger Teton National Forest. The BT plans to launch a new forest plan this year. Teton County should play an active role as a cooperating agency with the Forest Service in developing this new forest plan.
The Outdoor Alliance (Disclosure: I chair the board of this conservation organization), Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and the Wilderness Society, among many other conservation, outdoor recreation, and sportsmen/women organizations, have on-line information (and petitions) that explain the threats to our public lands from the effort to transfer these lands to the states or directly to private ownership. If you agree that public lands should stay in public hands, please visit Protect Our Public Lands, Sportsmen’s Access or The Our Wild Campaign to learn more about the issues and to consider signing the petitions.
- Mark Barron: Teton County is reportedly 97% federal lands and as long as multiple use is not compromised on any federal lands where it is now allowed, I see no problems.
- Mary M. Martin: I am confident that we have experts who can assist in the conversations necessary to allow for informed decisions. A major concern I have is privatizing federal lands could cause us to lose our tax base. Our federal lands provide the impetus for tourism, the major contributor of sales tax, which funds our county and town governments.
Our local concern should be to apply pressure to our federal elected officials to get more money for our Federal Land Management Agencies. The Teton County Commission should be a reliable partner to our federal agencies.
An issue that the Teton County Commission should provide leadership to regards fire-wise landscapes that protect our surrounding forests from a fire disaster. I am interested in creating a collaborative plan with our county and federal agencies regarding fire. A priority of our County Commission should be to ensure our preparedness with the goal that our community survives a natural fire incident rather than becomes victim of a fire disaster.
The stewardship and better management of our forests and forestlands should be part of our county goals. I respect that forest ecosystems are highly complex; but, there are best management practices. Older forests don’t provide the food source that is available in our younger forests. Younger forests species provide vegetation that provides greater nutritional value. Older forests are ripe for fire. A major goal for our county should be to support the management of our forests for larger landscape level treatment to enhance wildlife sustainability.
- **Richard Aurelio: We should keep Federal lands federal and State lands state unless there is a compelling environmental reason to consider change.
- Wes Gardner: Fearing that some states (including ours) may be neglectful of environmental impacts when in possession of these lands, I am generally against the recent pushes to transfer federal lands to the states. However, as this decision is far beyond any of our control, we must develop plans for what to do with our lands if they are granted to us. While the stakeholder process did not produce the desired outcome (three separate proposals emerged instead of one), the County Commissioners have little room for complaint, as the process was thorough, and all three plans worthy of consideration. If I was a Commissioner, I would work to strike a compromise between the MAWG plan and the Multi-Use Proposal. Essentially, I find the MAWG plan to strike a fair balance between use and protection, but when it comes to the Palisades area, I think that it is important to consider what our neighbors in Lincoln County are supporting, which is full release to all use as well as granting mineral, oil, and lumber extraction rights on the land that is just over our county border. Recognizing this reality, I would like to reach out to the Lincoln County Commissioners to seek a compromise in which we would grant full multi-use recreation in the Palisades region in Teton County in exchange for Lincoln County agreeing to limit extractions in the Palisades section which is in their county. The fact that the ecosystem is divided by an imaginary county line should not preclude our County Commissioners attempting to create one set of criteria for the entire ecosystem, even if that means that we give in to multi-use allowances on our side of the county line.
- Sandy Ress: I am opposed to relinquishing Federal lands to the States. And I want to ensure we preserve our eco-systems. But I am troubled by locals (on both sides of every conservation issue) who think they should have control of local lands and be able to dictate to the Park, Forest Service, BLM, Fish and Wildlife Service, etc. how those agencies should manage their lands. Unless an agency is not following the law, I prefer to let them do their job and I generally trust them to do it conscientiously and well.
Please share your priorities or comments on any other issues not covered in the previous questions.
- Mark Newcomb: We should pay attention to including public open space and green space in all new development so that people can readily access the outdoors for health and recreation purposes.
- Andrew Byron: It is our duty as stewards of Wyoming to continue to protect wildlife and waterways, preserve open space, support working agriculture, all while respecting our heritage and fostering responsible growth.
- Seadar Rose Davis: One of my top priorities is creating a healthy Teton County, with access to affordable and accessible health care and child care for all. This means supporting our health and human services programs in offering quality care while also focusing on preventative care. Our residents should have clear resources to help them navigate services for their physical, mental and social well-being. I believe the overall health of Teton County lies within our responsibility to our lands, wildlife and the well being of our residents.
- Luther Propst: -
- Mark Barron: It was amply demonstrated when I came to this fiercely independent and proudly self-sufficient place in the mid-70’s that we are respectful to others – even when we disagree, we act neighborly to our visitors and that living here requires hard work. We take care of our own, we help those in need and we do so as generously as our resources allow. We help with our hands, our heads and our wallets. If elected, I will work hard to financially support the human service agencies and non-profits who lift up those who need their help, professional expertise and support. Because of these dedicated organizations, Jackson Hole is a better place for all of us.
- Mary M. Martin: “You can create a better future for Jackson Hole” is the prominent message that appears on the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance’s home page of their website. At the bottom of that page it states, “Protecting the wildlife, wild places and community character of Jackson Hole...”. This brings to mind the importance of conserving and being good stewards of Teton County’s arts for all of us who are part of this unique place where “art” is part of our community character. The arts play an important role in Teton County’s assets and prosperity – whether it’s our performing arts, artworks by painters, sculptors, musicians, etc. Our residents possess terrific talents that are shared through nonprofit and for profit performing arts organizations. Conserving the arts in our community is important to me. I served on the board which developed the Fall Arts Festival. I directed several seasons of community musical theater productions to support our community’s efforts to raise funds for Fine Art scholarships for our youth and to provide community support to the development of the Walk Festival Hall.
I will strive to encourage other electeds to embrace the blend of benefits the arts bring our community – the arts are:
* Economic drivers – The arts create jobs and produce tax revenue;
* Educational assets – The arts foster young imaginations, facilitate learning for adults and our youth, provide critical thinking, and enhance communication skills;
* Civic catalysts – The arts create Jackson Hole to be welcoming sense of place and a desirable quality of life.
As a commissioner, I will be watchful of health care issues and needs. Health is foundational to a successful community. Public Health is one of the county departments I had a hand in establishing. This past Leadership Jackson Hole class’ group project was removing the stigma of mental health issues. #hereforyouJH is an effort which needs to become ubiquitous in Teton County. https://www.jhnewsandguide.com/news/features/article_e76e15f6-0347-55a3-a086-258e0035dd23.html
As a commissioner, I will encourage creative conversations to address the need for a permanent home for our Historical Society’s collection, research center and museum - an important community capital asset in our community.
I have spent my professional career as a community development educator. I would be remiss to fail to state that I firmly believe an economically sustainable community contains a vibrant successful business community and a diverse, and multi-faceted education focus. The issues these sectors face in our community will also be on my radar!
So why am I running? Go to my website and meet Burke! https://www.marymmartin.com/burke
- **Richard Aurelio: We live in a special place with abundant wildlife and un-rivaled open space. We need to be good stewards and preserve what’s been entrusted to us.
- Wes Gardner: I do my best to inhabit the middle ground on most issues. All candidates are for protecting the critical habitats in Teton County. We all recognize the needs of nature. But I also recognize the rights of property owners and the reality that to achieve the 65% goal of housing our workforce locally, we should not impede development with unnecessarily expensive environmental impact studies and prohibitive mitigation fees (especially if we are willing to exempt key pollutant contributors like agriculture). We need to strike a balance between development and protecting our greatest resource- Nature. My strategy is to identify parcels that exist outside of critical wildlife habitats and corridors and allow responsible development of such properties. There are already thousands of acres of Teton County under permanent conservation easement. We need to be careful that we aren’t creating similar sets of standards for property held by the private sector.
- Sandy Ress: My priorities are to stop impactful growth. No more hotels. Especially if they don't provide housing for their employees. I wouldn't accept an historic building in exchange for another floor on a hotel. Instead, I would explore downzoning the property back to what it was so that hotel couldn't be built. I don't want a huge school in South Park, and with the exception of Tribal Trails, which is already platted, no additional roads. I don't want a gazillion homes on the Bar-J and wouldn't have voted for the Raptor Center's variance. No more subsidized housing for non-essential workers. No more amusement parks. Enforce the rules we already adopted like short-term rentals and order the Sporting Club to undo their diversion of the Snake River. Do most everything we can for wildlife and to preserve open space. Keep our Valley as unspoiled as it was when we arrived. Thank you!