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How Do We Plan For Our Recovery?

Newspaper: Teton Valley News and The Valley Citizen

How do we plan for our recovery?

By Sandy Mason, Valley Advocates for Responsible Development

Something huge happened last week. Something that has the potential to kick start a new plan for future growth in our community. 140 developers, farmers, business owners, landowners, and elected officials came to participate in the Reshaping Development Patterns Workshop at Teton Springs to discuss the past, present, and future of development in Teton Valley.  Reshaping Development Patterns is a joint venture project between VARD, the Sonoran Institute and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy to redirect unsustainable patterns of growth.

It was especially gratifying to see such a strong cross-section of Teton Valley folks in attendance. In addition, there were also analysts, developers, bankers, and attorneys from throughout the West presenting their perspective of the on-the-ground reality of land use and growth in our community. What we heard was what many of us had known, in the past ten years, thousands of lots were platted in Teton Valley.  This extremely large inventory is now a real challenge for the community. With 7,005 vacant lots in the rural county, we have optimistically a 70-year supply. Since the beginning of 2009, the volume of Teton County foreclosures has topped $225,000,000. These numbers are unsustainable.

The clear message from the presentations and group discussions was that Teton Valley, with all our challenges, is still a unique place. We as a community need to do a better job at promoting that uniqueness. We are surrounded by great natural resources and beauty. We have a wealth of human resources and skills. As several of the presenters said, “Teton Valley needs to separate itself from the pack. You are not just a bedroom community for Jackson. Identify what makes you special and work towards protecting that because it is irreplaceable.” To do this, the entire community must put aside our differences, focus on what we all value, and work together to plan our future. A first step we can all take is to invest in the County Comprehensive Plan process. In this plan, we must develop a clear road map for our valley’s recovery. This includes crafting a cohesive identity for Teton Valley. Who are we? Where have we come from? What are the attributes that make Teton Valley a unique and wonderful place to live? We can then implement policies to protect and promote that identity.

This is how we, the community, are going to recover and plan our future.  

So how can YOU be involved? First off, be sure to attend the Teton County Comprehensive Plan kickoff meeting on May 17th at 6pm in the County Courthouse in Driggs.  Secondly, start talking to your friends and neighbors about their ideas for growth and development in our community.  Talk about our past development patterns, and how we would like to grow in the future. Third, be sure to stay tuned in to VARD’s Reshaping Development Patterns project by checking out our website www.tetonvalleyadvocates.org.

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