Rezone of ‘Genny Block’ up for hot debate

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – The furious building pace of the past couple of years has maybe added fuel to the so-called “Genevieve Block” debate. Or perhaps the block itself with its significantly historic buildings represents a palpable “Last of the Old West” last stand for Jackson residents who fear their home town is being ripped out from beneath their very feet by the pursuit of cash and the construction crane.

Whatever the cause, the proposed rezone of parcels addressed as 135 and 175 East Broadway, commonly known as the Genevieve block, is an undeniable boilerplate issue headed for its first hurdle this afternoon in front of the town planning commission.

Background

An initial hearing for rezone was put off on December 5 to give the applicant (Jeff Golightly representing Max Chapman’s Capital Management group) time to modify their proposal after a previous side deal took on a different tone.

The Teton County Historic Preservation Board had originally given its seal of approval to any zoning change with an understanding from Golightly and company that they would preserve the Van Vleck building (now Café Genevieve) through any impending development of the property.

That left two other buildings and businesses—Persephone Bakery and Healthy Being Juicery—out in the cold and left further questions pertaining to the legality or binding power of such a side deal. Could, for instance, Capital Management provide any assurances given the sole reason for the upzoning ask was to accommodate a potential third party buyer and developer?

After a public meeting revealed a passionate and growing number of supporters expressing a desire to see minimal or no changes to the entire block including all three historic buildings currently on it, the TCHPB rescinded its approval, crafting a letter to include Persephone and Healthy Being buildings as well before it would endorse a rezone.

Save Genny and the Block is a group effort launched by locals to protect historical assets on East Broadway. (Molly Watters Facebook)

A grassroots effort organized by Alyssa Friedman, Clare Stumpf, Emily Coleman, Molly Watters, and Ryan Nourai has made tremendous headway in garnering support for the preservation of the parcels.

“Please say no to Max Chapman’s rezone deal. Please allow the Historic Preservation Board time to develop a Historic Preservation Ordinance to protect our remaining historic places in town, which was what was originally intended by those who worked on the Comprehensive Plan. And, please consider the Genevieve block as part of a long-term vision for our community,” the group stated in a letter to public officials.

The Conservation Alliance has also weighed in, stating. “We have a responsibility to write land use rules that align with our community’s vision as articulated in our Comprehensive Plan: ecosystem stewardship, growth management, and quality of life—which includes our history and our local businesses.” Adding, “The Van Vleck block hosts a unique combination of important historic buildings like the Van Vleck Cabin (over 100 years old) and newer beloved local businesses like Café Genevieve, Persephone Bakery, and Healthy Being Juicery. These local businesses have quickly become part of the fabric of our community. Please shape policy to prioritize our well-loved small businesses over more big corporate chain hotels.”

The Alliance is advocating against the spot zone of the property in question ahead of a more comprehensive approach—scheduled to be undertaken sometime in 2019.

Map of properties on East Broadway. The Alliance challenged planning commissioner to remember: “The identity we sell to our visitors is ‘the last of the Old West.’ Let’s be true to that slogan.” (Teton County GIS, TOJ)

Staff recommendation

Town planning staff is advising against a rezone from UC to DC at this time, stating:

“While staff acknowledges that the proposed DC zone could very well be appropriate for the site based on the vision in the Comprehensive Plan and surrounding uses, we also recognize that the site has a unique concentration of historically significant structures located in a very prominent downtown location that is well used (and loved) by locals and visitors. The applicant’s site is one of the key character areas of downtown Jackson.

“Given that staff has not yet had an opportunity to propose any new, comprehensive historic preservation tools for Council (or review the Historic Preservation Board’s planned study) as part of its 2019 Work Plan, staff finds that it would be premature to approve the requested rezone before the community has had this important conversation.”


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