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Town staff to write rules for land plan

Shucking consultants, town agrees to save money, have work done by those who live here.
By Benjamin Graham and Kevin Huelsmann, Jackson Hole News&Guide
November 21, 2012

Rather than hire an outside consultant to implement the new land-development regulations, town officials decided that Jackson planning staff will do the job.

The added responsibility could take up a considerable amount of staff time but will save the town money. It also will put people with local expertise in charge of the process, planners said.

At a workshop Monday, Town Planner Tyler Sinclair and long-range planner Alex Norton presented staff’s recommendation on the approach the town should take when implementing the new regulations. They’ll present much of the same information to county officials Monday.

Town councilors agreed with the components of phase one of the implementation process as well as the role of town planning staff.

Both decisions affirmed staff recommendations.

Town staffers are more familiar with the new land-use plan and with the community, compared with consultants, Sinclair said at the meeting. Using staff also would be fiscally responsible, he said.

The only pitfall could be the added work undertaken by the planning department.

“The speed that we can move through amendments will be limited by staff time,” Sinclair said.

In June planners estimated that rewriting the land-development regulations and completing some of the initial studies and analysis called for in the comprehensive plan could cost $285,000 in consulting fees. It also could require roughly 900 hours from the long-range planner and 4,440 hours of planning staff time.

Rewriting the land-use rules could require $50,000 in consulting fees, a full-time planner and 70 hours from the long-range planner, planners estimated in June.

While a consultant will not oversee the process, some may be used for technical expertise.

That could include help with drafting the regulations, Sinclair said.

“The content will be 100 percent under the control of the community, elected officials and staff,” he said Tuesday.

Consultants could also facilitate public participation throughout the process of writing the new regulations. Norton is tasked with coordinating much of the upcoming work. He’ll work on tracking data, setting up a review process for new regulations and overseeing public input, among other tasks.

The council also agreed with the staff recommendation that the regulations should be amended along the way, rather than all at once.

Under this approach, officials, staff and the public will amend a chunk of code at a time, such as the downtown district.

The region, which is slated to be addressed first, will be zoned for more mixed-use development. The development regulations governing other parts of town will remain the same as the code is rewritten for downtown.

“It allows us to get at pieces of the code much quicker,” Sinclair said of the “amend as you go” approach.

The method also will encourage public participation, he said.

Residents will be able to selectively engage in the process of writing regulations.

Another option would have been to write a new code while keeping the existing one in place.

The next step will be for staff to lay out the process of implementation.

In phase one, officials, staff and the public will look at the downtown district, stable residential areas and the lodging overlay.

For county officials, they’ll first address the planned residential development tool and rural parts of the county, Norton said. The planned residential development tool allows property owners to develop denser projects in return for setting aside a prescribed amount of open space.

A grant from the Western Greater Yellowstone Consortium could cover some of the costs of rewriting the land-use rules. Teton County is one of four counties that won a $1.5 million grant  to develop a model for comprehensive planning efforts, Norton said. From the overall grant, there’s $100,000 the four counties can split up for research and analysis, Norton said.

While there is some uncertainty about whether the town and county will be able to tap into the $100,000, Norton said it’s not a set amount.

“It’s something we probably can do in-house,” he said Tuesday. “It’s not like this is $25,000 we have to spend.”

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