BREAKING: Genny block rezone put on hold by developer

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Owners of two parcels up for controversial rezoning in downtown Jackson have pulled the item for consideration “indefinitely” according to sources close to Buckrail.

Three structures on one of the proposed parcels for sale are Café Genevieve, Persephone Bakery, and the Healthy Being Juicery. Café Genevieve is situated in one of Jackson’s oldest original homesteads—a cabin built and lived in by the Van Vleck family beginning in 1910.

The applicant was requesting approval to amend the Official Zoning Map to rezone two properties located at 135 and 175 East Broadway Avenue from Urban Commercial (UC) to Downtown Core (DC). The applicant, Gardner Capital Management represented by VP Jeff Golightly, has stated a sale of the property is in the works. Current UC zoning would allow for a fairly large hotel development. DC zoning would make for an even bigger and taller one.

After a 5-2 recommendation for denial of the zoning by the planning commission last month, as well as planning staff recommending same, Golightly has requested the item be pulled from meeting of the town council scheduled for tomorrow evening. Town staff said the continuance of the item, at this point, is indefinite.

Opposition to the zoning that could have jeopardized the future of historic structures like the Van Vleck cabin was vehement. A grassroots organization spearheaded by Alyssa Friedman, Clare Stumpf, Emily Coleman, Molly Watters, and Ryan Nourai was so fierce in its ability to rally the community that the Historic Preservation Board rescinded its initial support of a side deal with the applicant to save at least Genevieve, later stating it wanted to see protections for other buildings on the property.

Golightly told Buckrail the application was pulled so his group could have more time to amend it. “We want to make sure this will be something that will work for us,” he said. Golightly could not give a timeframe as to when Gardner Capital would be back. He also said public opposition to the proposed zoning change was not the reason his group has backed off for now.

As a Conservation Alliance field organizer, Nourai has helped galvanize awareness surrounding the issue along with fellow CLI (Conservation Leadership Institute) members. Nourai said, “At first blush this is a victory but we are not so naïve as to believe anything is over. We don’t want this to create complacency. We are still asking people to show up en masse at the meeting tomorrow.”

At its core, the issue is a fairly benign order of business for town government. Zoning, typically, is the kind of news relegated to 4-point font size in the third section of any newspaper. But in Jackson, the pending sale and upzone that could pave the way for a repaving of the block for a new hotel has made the proposal a prickly one—many on the opposition side calling it a “last stand” of sorts.

Some, including those two dissenting votes on the planning commission, worry that with current zoning the owner or buyer or developer of the parcels doesn’t have to do anything to protect the structures on the property. They could be bulldozed tomorrow for a large-scale hotel. What Gardner Capital has done is make assurances directly to the Historic Preservation Board that they would spare the Genevieve building in exchange for its blessing on the upzone that would allow for more FAR and a slightly taller building.

A rezone of the property is scheduled as part of an ongoing process by the town to update land development regulations and zoning across the board. This particular property is one of the last to get looked at—perhaps in spring. Also at the heart of the matter is a lack of any written standards the town could apply to buildings meeting historical significance standing.

“It’s exciting news worth celebrating but is truly only a steppingstone towards our larger goal. Moving forward, the Historic Preservation Board is going to need a lot of support in getting a proper Historic Preservation Ordinance passed,” Coleman said. “There is still no protocol in place that aims to protect and preserve our historic entities and spaces which is unacceptable for a town with so much at stake. We shouldn’t have to rely on the goodwill of developers to have our communities best interest in mind.”

For Coleman, Nourai, and others, their end game is to see better predictability for historical preservation. “Long-term we are looking at this block as a last stand, a final frontier; as a catalyst to get some real ordinances. Not deals made with no standards but actual ordinances that spell out what a developer or property owner can do with historical structures,” he said.

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