Drama Downtown As D2 Vote Looms

Facing one last vote before becoming law, District 2 zoning is on tonight’s town council meeting agenda.

The path to adoption began in 2006 when local officials decided to rewrite the 1994 Comprehensive plan.

Years of meetings and draft documents led to approval of the framework policy language in 2012 but progress in adopting specific regulations has been slow with only one zone, the county rural designation, getting formal approval.

Under pressure from advocacy groups like the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, the Town Council changed course on the proposed downtown zoning which had added potential for commercial density as a way of encouraging redevelopment, when they told planners to strip out the new commercial square footage. All this while trying to create incentives for property owners to build workforce housing.

Developers, meanwhile, demonstrated that redevelopment would not be likely unless they could build short-term rental units alongside the affordable housing. So, the council reconsidered and added back a limited amount of commercial square footage.

Now the time has come to pass the new rules, but that is not likely to be the end of the story.

With the threat of a referendum from Save Historic Jackson Hole, the whole matter could end up on a ballot for a community vote. If the zoning rules are defeated, the existing rules would remain in effect, 22 years after they were written.

SHJH Director Jake Nichols has described the change to allow more commercial zoning as a substantive departure. “It was done hastily, and a change in course so late in the process undermines public confidence in the process and in you, our elected officials,” he wrote.

Public comment has been sharp on District 2. While some comment has been supportive of the Council’s efforts, others have been critical.

“We are extremely disgusted and disappointed that you would even revisit this issue and roll over to a small minority of people who do not represent what the citizens of Jackson really want or need,” wrote residents Jim and Laurie Genzer.

Brigid Mander, a skier, frequent traveler and freelance writer was blunt when she wrote to the council, “are you crazy? What set of facts are you operating upon? Where do you live? Who do you talk to? What do you see? What on earth makes this sound like a good idea to you?”

The ordinances, all nine of them, have been approved twice already. Tonight’s vote is the final one to make the laws official.

The meeting starts at 6pm.

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