JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Town leaders signed off on a letter to the Forest Service that would allow the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) process to begin as it pertains to phases 2 and 3 of Snow King’s master plan for expansion.
Several key issues have fettered the dialogue. At the behest of watchdog organizations like the Conservation Alliance and individual stakeholders, the council has reiterated its request for an updated master plan. The current plan is 17 years old and calls for amenities like a civic center that no longer appears to be a component in the grand scheme.
Councilman Jim Stanford has been the most insistent on a comprehensive, holistic look at what might be happening with the town hill (base area and uphill included)—without which he feels the community and its elected representatives cannot make informed decisions.
“I’ve been a part of this discussion for five or six years, even before being on town council,” Stanford said at Monday’s meeting. “We talk bit-by-bit…ad hoc. Are we going to piecemeal this forever? When do we take a look at the master plan? Until we fix that we are going to be stuck here piecemealing it together. It is not operating holistically.”
Representatives of Snow King Mountain Resort include GM Ryan Stanley and Jeff Golightly, VP of Gardner Capital Management, an investor group headed by Max Chapman Jr. that bought the beleaguered resort in 2014. They argue it is difficult to take a comprehensive look at Snow King’s future for two reasons. One, they simply don’t know yet what the Bridger-Teton NF is going to allow as far as proposed recreational amenities like ziplines.
Secondly, the base area of Snow King no longer operates under the direction of a single entity. The resort was parted out by former owner Manual Lopez, who sold pieces like the hotel as he became more and more in debt. A coalition of interest groups called SKRMA (Snow King Resort Master Association) is practically nonexistent.
Fighting over five acres
Councilors were also cautious about a particular piece of property called KM-6. The five-acre parcel is owned by a subsidy of Snow King. It borders Phil Baux Park and Aspen Cemetery. It’s currently being used to accommodate overflow parking for events and as a staging are of sorts for heavy equipment and resort vehicles.
Golightly explained his group has no immediate plans for KM-6—not in the next 5 to 10 years, anyway. Still, many wanted to see it included in a master plan.
“People just want a ballpark idea of what’s going to go on KM-6,” said Shane Rothman, who, as a neighbor to the resort, has launched a personal campaign called ‘Free Snow King’ in support of Snow King.
Another neighbor, Patty Ewing, called KM-6 the “cornerstone to everything that happens at Snow King.”
Mayor Pete Muldoon also pressed Snow King reps on the inclusion of KM-6 in future plans. “The point of a master plan is there is a plan. What I hear is there isn’t one,” Muldoon said. “I don’t see how we can ignore KM-6. What do I tell my constituents that ask about it?”
“Saying, ‘we will get to it in due time…’ I would rather have it up front rather than have it rear its head,” Stanford said, who then asked Golightly if his group would be willing to give up some 250,000 square feet of entitlement rights on that parcel still owed to Snow King.
“No way,” Golightly answered, flatly. “No way will we give up commercial rights on that lot. And I don’t think the town of Jackson has a long history of forcing landowners to give up development rights.”
The votes are in
Before a vote Monday, Jim Genzer, who has lived near Snow King for 43 years, warned the council about agreeing to anything. “Snow King has been a very untrustworthy group. I understand we have some new management now, but they have been extremely poor neighbors.”
In supporting the letter to the USFS, councilman Don Frank said time is always important to developers (“We have 75 frost-free days in Jackson Hole, then it’s winter”) and any “denial through delay” was an unfair tactic.
“In last several meetings I have listened to public comment and read all email sent to me in order to get a sense of what is so and not so,” Frank said. [Given the] 9,456 citizens in the town of Jackson, I’ve seen less than 50 pieces of items against. It seems as though those who wanted to speak, did, and the rest are mute.”
Muldoon owed that to citizens not fully understanding a very complicated matter. In fact, after hearing the motion presented by Bob Lenz at the meeting, Muldoon asked planner Tyler Sinclair of he understood it and, if so, could he explain it to the rest of the council.
The council ultimately decided on a reworked option presented by town staff that agreed to sign a letter on behalf of the town to the Forest Service, which that agency was waiting on in order to begin the NEPA process. The vote also called for Snow King to update pieces of its master plan concurrently with NEPA and some after the USFS decision.