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Fiscal Responsibility Requires Thoughtful Planning

Newspaper: Teton Valley News & Valley Citizen

"Fiscal Responsibility Requires Thoughtful Planning"

By, Stacey Frisk, Executive Director Valley Advocates for Responsible Development

It’s a great time to buy a home in Teton Valley. With the median residential sales price settling in at $165,000 for 2012, the dream of homeownership is now within reach of our valued teachers, nurses, and service workers. Only three years ago, median sales prices teetered above $300,000, as the last wave of speculators and developers introduced grand new plans for resort-style subdivisions across the remote reaches of the county. With lower prices, Teton Valley is seeing consistent demand for homes and undeveloped land, and our listed inventory is dropping as sellers pull property from the market. These early signs of recovery are tentative, but encouraging.

Maintaining momentum toward recovery will require consistent, thoughtful management and governance. Unlike many western communities, Teton County implicitly allowed gambling during the boom, with developers selling lots in un-built subdivisions to raise money for infrastructure. When the sales stopped, so did the investment in infrastructure. Lot owners were left with property in weedy fields with unfinished roads and utilities, and unmaintained ponds and hydrants needed for fire protection. Loose development agreements with the county laid out vague timelines, but didn’t define penalties for developers who failed to meet their obligations.

Our appointed and elected officials are charged with untangling the legacy of chaotic development and building a fair and predictable system that protects our community from predatory speculative development and irrational growth patterns. Fiscal responsibility and lasting economic development require professional land-use planning and predictable and fair policies; unmanaged growth leaves taxpayers on the hook for subsidizing the investment projects of speculators and developers.

Now more than ever, Teton County needs qualified staff and courageous elected officials. Cutting qualified employees from the Planning Department is not fiscally responsible; it’s shortsighted and harms our community’s efforts at economic recovery. Our elected officials also need to be held accountable for implementing our community’s vision, outlined in the Teton Valley 2020 Comprehensive Planning Process that included thousands of hours of community volunteerism and input. Our new Comprehensive Plan calls for protection of our rural character, stewardship of our rivers and wildlife habitat, and promotion of economic development through thoughtful, focused investment in public amenities and a commitment to fiscally responsible growth. The Comprehensive Plan unanimously passed all levels of citizen and official review and is now waiting for implementation by our elected Board of County Commissioners.

An upcoming Town Hall Meeting, hosted by County Commissioners Kathy Rinaldi, Kelly Park, and Sid Kunz, will be held at the Teton County Courthouse in Driggs in the first floor Commissioners' Meeting Room from 7-8:30pm on Monday, March 25th (This meeting has since been rescheduled for Monday, April 8th). During the Town Hall, the Commissioners will not set an agenda or deliberate, but will listen and ask questions. This is a great opportunity to speak with the Commissioners if you are unable to attend any of their regularly scheduled daytime meetings. Please take time to show your support for quality long-term planning and meaningful implementation of the community’s vision as Teton Valley moves forward.

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