Weekly News Roundup: Friday, Jan. 28

Miss the headlines this week? Catch up on a new mixed-use downtown development, recent search and rescue efforts and local mental health needs.
Rendering of the Condos at Cache + Pearl development
A rendering included in the sketch plan for the Condos at Cache + Pearl development shows a potential future view of the lots where the Ranch Inn, Thai Me Up/Melvin Brewing and other local businesses are currently located. (Northworks Architects/Crystal Creek Capital Real Estate Advisors)

 

Council Moves Forward on Cache and Pearl Development

The Jackson Town Council approved a sketch plan Tuesday for a new 67,000-square-foot building at the intersection of Cache and Pearl streets. The development, which would displace several local businesses, has drawn backlash from community members. However, Councilman Jim Rooks said during a presentation with local planners that rules allowing for the site to be developed have been set in stone for decades. 

“You’d have to rewind to 1995 to understand why it is that this particular set of lots has the unique circumstances that it has,” Rooks said. “I’m, like, surprisingly happy with this proposal to the extent that we have a zone that says there’s no limits on the amount of square footage.”

So, the question is, what’s this new mixed-use building going to look like? Right now, the draft plans include six commercial spaces on the ground level and condos and apartments, some deed-restricted, above.

During conversations with architects, Councilwoman Jessica Sell Chambers said she wasn’t completely happy with the planning process and that she hopes developers continue to listen to community concerns. 

“You have a general idea that we just don’t want something so massive,” she said. “I think the understanding is we’re all coming to the table in good faith.”

The council ended up voting 4-1 on the sketch plan with some conditions added. The town’s Design Review Committee, as well as the planners, had also previously approved the general design. 

Recent Search and Rescue Incidents

Local search and rescue teams were active over the weekend of Jan. 22, responding to two major incidents in Jackson Hole. On Saturday, a skier was injured in a small avalanche triggered by a snowboarder traveling above him in the Sliver Couloir of Grand Teton National Park. Other parties traveling nearby were able to provide immediate help and rangers arrived with air support quickly, but incident responders said the situation could have been much more tragic than it was. The Jackson Hole News&Guide also reported that the skiers involved said better communication could have helped avoid the situation.

Another skier was injured off of Teton Pass Sunday after he hit guidewire coming off a power line. The skier was airlifted and transported to St John’s Hospital, sustaining significant but non-life-threatening injuries. 

Lower Speed Limits Coming for Wilson

The Teton County Board of Commissioners voted Monday to approve a letter to the Wyoming Department of Transportation advocating for a speed limit reduction on Highway 22 (Teton Pass). WYDOT is currently lowering the posted limit near the Wilson Elementary School from 40 to 35 miles per hour, after the department conducted an investigation into the roadway and heard community concerns. 

One public commenter said she believes both community members and wildlife will be better protected by reducing speeds on major local roadways, but she also said enforcement will be critical. 

“Take, for example, Highway 390, also known as Moose-Wilson Road. While the speed limit is 35 [mph] at night, I often encounter drivers flying past the critical moose habitat zones at much faster speeds,” said the speaker, who did not provide her last name.

Debates over other stretches of major highways in Teton County, including over potential automated ticketing, are likely to continue as the area sees more growth. Speed limits are also expected to be reviewed in the new Teton Pass Corridor Study.

Health Officers to Consider Mental Health Relief Options

The prevalence of loneliness, excessive drinking and suicidal tendencies have been shown to be much higher in Jackson Hole than elsewhere in the country, and the trends have only gotten worse during the pandemic. The next step, local officials say, is to decide what to do about it. 

Abby Ridgeway, who has studied the mental health needs of Teton County residents for the last several months, said during a meeting with the Teton District Board of Health Tuesday that programs emphasizing community connections and social resources beyond partying are an important piece of the puzzle. But better treatment options when situations deteriorate quickly, especially for adolescents, is a more pressing issue. 

“Teton County just doesn’t have some of the critical facilities and services that people need during a crisis. In particular, the lack of a local detox facility, inpatient treatment and intensive outpatient facilities means that people are having to travel for care,” Ridgeway said. “As I mentioned, [this] can destabilize people’s economic situations and social situations.”

A steering committee comprised of local public health officials will be honing in on what Teton County should invest in first in the coming months.

Future of Rodeo Grounds Dominates Town Discussion 

The future of Jackson’s rodeo grounds continues to be a major conversation topic at public meetings in Teton County, and Wednesday’s informal Chat with Council Members event was no exception. A strong contingent of locals has been mobilizing against a potential future relocation of the rodeo and fairgrounds. But Councilwoman Jessica Sell Chambers said the current affordable housing shortage in town means that at least a conversation looking into other opportunities for the land is worthwhile.

“It’s responsible of us as stewards of taxpayer money and representing the voters to have an informed conversation about the rodeo grounds,” she said. 

The rodeo isn’t going anywhere for now, but the town council is tentatively scheduled to begin talking about potential future alternatives later this year.

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