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May
22

Since the Town of Jackson’s wide-reaching DRD (Downtown Redevelopment) plans were voted down via public referendum seven years ago—a true, in-your-hands measure of community sentiment expressing its will that we not over-develop our town, not turn it into a playground for mismatched, overbuilt developments, not speculate that we can match Teton Village’s resort destination allure—-we’ve watched development happen. When citizens said “no” to DRD, development rights were simply granted individually, one project at a time.

And here we are, with a fist full of empty commercial space, large quantities of unsold real estate units, and a community that feels ever more transient. Too many citizens wonder if they should stay in the valley or leave it.

Town planners and community have been, for  years, giving their lives over to creating an acceptable plan for this special place. We have been asked to trust our comments are truly heard by our leaders, charged with representing the public’s interest. As a community, we cannot afford to know we’ve all been whistling dixie. We want a logical process of implementation.

Otherwise, for all these years, our community has merely engaged in an exercise.

Preserving environment and quality of place, managing growth, and creating a viable, broad-based economy are Jackson’s great challenges. We need a certain critical population mass to achieve that balance, but most crucial is ensuring we promote and protect our wildlife, its habitat and other environmentally sensitive areas.

We must continue moving towards making the arts a part of the Town of Jackson’s future. We can remind all visitors of our history by including beautiful and lasting public places in our Comprehensive Plan. That sort of planning aids in building tourism and helps us towards finding out what level of economic success we can expect to reach. We should, as Candra Day has said, be strengthening sustainable tourism practices, using cultural assets as tools. Growth should incorporate landscaping, parks, and grace of space. Let’s create space both sacred and fundamental. Without these provocative elements, we forfeit a higher level of urban vibrancy.

Officials must strategize to attract new businesses–businesses offering solid, long-term employment—to Jackson. Attract and establish products and services desired and supported by locals and visitors. Strive to fill all this empty commercial space, rather than plan for more building.

It still appears that developers are feeling encumbered by wildlife.  Our core economic stability lies in protecting and preserving the power of this place. All new projects should be primarily concerned with that goal.  Geography and wildlife are our golden eggs–they will only become more precious.

Keep downtown vibrant, give it an identity separate from Teton Village’s—we cannot match that profile—and use it as a place where families who can’t afford $400 a night lodgings may stay. We want to keep those “families of five from Toledo.”  We want them to be able to come hereand experience the wonders of this place–we want to educate them.  If we do not, why will anyone want to protect this place?

Former Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance Director Franz Camenzind has said, “We come home, there’s a moose in the yard.  We pick up the phone, call our friend in Atlanta, and get them to guess what’s outside our window. It’s not just going to the parks to see these animals, it’s having them right there with us.  Living with them. Nobody has the diversity of wildlife we do, let alone have it as visible as it is, interwoven with community.”

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