How to build a neighborhood for everyone in Northern South Park

A message from the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance:

JACKSON, Wyo. —The future of Northern South Park (NSP) has been at the center of vigorous community debate for decades. After the Gills requested a large upzone last year, the Town Council and County Commission opened up the area to growth and launched a “neighborhood plan” to design the neighborhood we need, in partnership with the landowners.

Replacing rural zoning with town-level development potential is a generous gift from our community to the landowners. The upzone creates significant new value that can and should be shared with the community. In the spirit of getting this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity right, we commissioned an independent real estate analysis to determine how much community benefit the plan could include while still providing considerable economic return for the landowners. The Alliance also analyzed the natural resource values of the area and utilized Wyoming Game & Fish and wildlife-vehicle collision data to understand how best to mitigate impacts to wildlife. And we have spectacular news: the data shows we can build a neighborhood for everyone.

A neighborhood for everyone, including wildlife
We’re excited to release our vision of a neighborhood for everyone – a neighborhood that honors our ranching heritage, respects the needs of our essential workers, and sustains healthy wildlife populations. The research shows that we can balance private profit and community benefit to create a true neighborhood for locals where 71% of the units are permanently affordable for the full range of local incomes, and where 200 acres of open space are conserved to support agriculture, water quality, and wildlife habitat.

Honoring our ranching heritage
This proposal ensures that the landowners can continue working the land for another 100 years by providing massive new development potential that ensures their future generations’ financial security. If we design NSP similarly to the surrounding neighborhoods (as the Comprehensive Plan calls for), then we could see 930 new homes, with about 400 single-family residences and 500 multifamily homes. This added density will create almost $100 million of additional value for the landowners, even after providing affordable housing and protecting wildlife.

Respecting the needs of our essential workers
Our working families need safe and secure housing they can afford. We know that simply building more houses doesn’t automatically help many local families – they could get bought by outside investors, sit empty, or turn into vacation rentals. We must also guard against what happened in Cottonwood where homes were originally affordable to local workers but now sell for a million dollars or more. Permanent “deed restrictions,” legally-binding documents that require local ownership or occupancy and stay with the properties no matter who buys them, are the only way to ensure new homes will shelter locals now and forever.

Just like in town or in Cottonwood, NSP could provide a variety of housing choices – single-family homes, townhomes, and apartments/condos – to meet the needs of our workers no matter their income, relationship status or family size. Ultimately, this will maintain our diverse and vibrant community. Our analysis shows that even with high levels of landowner profit, 71% of new homes (about 650 residences) can be affordable forever. These affordable homes would sell for between $150,000 and $644,000, with the majority around $398,000. With additional public or private funding, we could make an even higher percentage of homes affordable to all of us.

Sustaining our wildlife
As we provide housing for our essential workers in NSP, we can also protect habitat for wildlife. A greenway of agricultural conservation easements across Central South Park would provide connectivity for elk, deer, and other wildlife, and would balance the impacts of new development on our ecosystem. Furthermore, establishing a greenbelt south of new development now would enhance wildlife utilization and permeability of Central South Park even if it also develops in future decades.

We can connect critical habitat from the Bridger-Teton National Forest around Snow King and across S Hwy 89 into the private, public, and protected areas leading into the Snake River corridor and across Hwy 22. From the data, we know that elk winter on Josies Ridge and in Leeks Canyon, that elk move up and down the Snake River bottom, and that S Hwy 89 is one of the worst “hot spots” for wildlife-vehicle collisions in Teton County. We support public-private partnerships to protect and enhance wildlife movement throughout this important corridor.

A 200-acre corridor could be achieved in a few ways, whether the landowners record conservation easements voluntarily for tax benefits, or whether they’re compensated for easements through philanthropy or through the addition of even more density in Northern South Park (likely about 50 more homes).

Let’s build a neighborhood for everyone, together
We hope this vision inspires you as much as it inspires us. This is only one version of how it could all work. There are many details to work through together. We hope you’ll join us in creating a neighborhood for everyone. To see the data for yourself, and learn more, please visit jhalliance.org/nsp and join us for a virtual event on April 20 from 6-7 pm. 

About The Author

Sponsored by Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance

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