Weekly News Roundup: Friday, May 20

Miss the headlines this week? Catch up on the new independence of Grizzly 399's cubs, a development proposal in Rafter J and a draft land code for Teton Valley.
A new draft Land Development Code for Teton County, Idaho, is now available for public review. (Michelle Holihan/Shutterstock)

by | May 20, 2022 | Weekly News Roundups

County denies Legacy Lodge proposal

A workforce housing proposal for the Legacy Lodge living center in Rafter J has been denied by Teton County commissioners. The 2-2 decision effectively kills the plan, for now, to build 57 units of deed-restricted workforce housing at the former assisted living center. One of the deciding ‘no’ votes, Democrat Mark Newcomb, said the density of the proposal, with all its parking and transportation caveats, simply does not meet the neighborhood character of Rafter J.

“The units, simply, to fit in with Rafter J, they need to be larger. They need to be livable. I’m not going to pretend to try and craft a vision beyond that,” Newcomb said. “But also, this community needs an assisted living facility.”

Commissioners voted in favor of a different application related to the Legacy Lodge earlier this month, and this was the fifth public meeting on the topic, which demonstrates how difficult the decision was. But now, it’s back to square one for the applicant, who was heavily criticized by Rafter J neighbors for trying to push a plan through without their full approval. In an interview with the Jackson Hole News&Guide following the decision, the developer said, “It appears this neighborhood’s history of housing workers may be coming to a close.”

More local foster families needed

Just two foster families currently live in Teton County and are available to take in children. That’s a low and concerning number for Kelsi Rammell, foster care coordinator for Sublette, Lincoln and Teton counties. She said she can never predict when she might need to place a child in a home should they come into protected custody, and only having a couple of options means she may have to start looking outside Jackson Hole at any moment. 

“Even though I have two homes—that sounds like two possible options—not all of those homes are able to support infants. You know, not all of those homes are able to get child care overnight,” Rammell said. “Some need a school-aged kid to be able to make it work. So, I might have two homes, but they can’t support like any any child that comes into placement.”

Rammell said Teton County is notorious for having very few foster families in part because of issues like housing constraints and the propensity for folks to live here part-time. But she added that those who do sign up, after going through an application process, can find serving children in need, even temporarily, to be very rewarding. 

“I know that I had a call with a foster parent the other day that said, ‘We went down to the Snake River, and he said that he had never even put his feet in the Snake River.’ And he’s lived in Jackson his whole life. And so, little moments like that to create with those kids are a much bigger, much bigger deal than you would imagine,” Rammell said.

Rammel is currently looking for more families who might be willing to sign up, especially considering that the summer tends to be a busier time. More information, including how the foster system works and what the training process is like, is available through the Wyoming Department of Family Services

Grizzly 399 cubs start to break away from mom

The two-year-old cubs of famed Grizzly 399 are now independent, according to an interagency announcement from BearWise Jackson Hole, the National Park Service and other conservation organizations. Dan Thompson is supervisor of the large carnivore section of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. He said the break-up of the family group is a natural development for cubs of this age, and that it’s now more important than ever to give the bears their space. Part of that means not sharing details about the bears’ location.

“That kind of information, it threatens and endangers bears and people,” Thompson said. 

Officials are also reminding the public about the saying, “A fed bear is a dead bear,” because the animals can come into conflict with humans when food rewards are available in residential areas. That’s a concern for these four cubs after it was uncovered last year that a homeowner near the Jackson Hole Airport had been feeding 399 and her offspring for years.

“We know they’re habituated,” Thompson said. “The question is how food-conditioned they are based on what happened last year? We’ve worked really closely with the public and the public has done a great job of securing attractants for years, and I think there’s more interest in that now, so I think that’s been a benefit for all bears.” 

Both residents and visitors to Teton County can do their part to help protect the 399 family by storing all garbage in bear-resistant containers, securing livestock and compost and properly storing food and cooking gear while camping.

Father of fallen Jackson Marine to run for statehouse 

Jim McCollum, the father of a 20-year-old Marine of Jackson who was killed during the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan last August, announced his candidacy to represent Jackson in the Wyoming statehouse Tuesday. The carpenter and poet is running against Democrat Rep. Mike Yin, who has served House District 16 since 2018. 

Read KHOL’s full coverage about McCollum’s announcement here.

Teton Valley land development code available for public review

A new draft Land Development Code for Teton County, Idaho, is now available for public review. Niki Richards is executive director of Valley Advocates for Responsible Development, a nonprofit that’s worked closely with the county commissioners and planning and zoning team throughout the code development process. She described the code as covering “everything and the kitchen sink,” from density regulations to home businesses.

“This is not going to be a boilerplate code. This is going to be really specific to Teton County and really specific to the needs here,” Richards said. 

Richards also said the new code should give prospective buyers a clearer picture of the rules for the property they’re planning to purchase. The county is now taking public comments on the latest draft and has tentatively scheduled public hearings about the code for late June.

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