Grant funds preservation strategy

February 8, 2019

Teton County has set its sights on the future, or more specifically, the past, allocating over $46,000 to study how to preserve its historical buildings.

Teton County’s Historic Preservation Board won a $15,000 state grant to develop a community plan for preserving important landmarks and districts.

Along with another $31,760 from the board’s budget, the funds will go toward hiring a Boulder, Colorado, firm to facilitate a public process to determine the appropriate historic preservation strategies for Jackson Hole.

Board member Michael Stirn told commissioners that historic preservation has been a topical issue in the town recently, particularly with public discussion about the future of the historic block that is home to Cafe Genevieve.

“We’ve been working as a board for a long time to try to get this better defined for our community, a more coherent strategy about preservation and how we want to address it,” Stirn said. “We felt it was important at this point in time to get started with the project.”

In an effort to sell the historic Cafe Genevieve block, its owners applied for a rezone to secure the same zoning as surrounding properties. They offered to permanently preserve the Cafe Genevieve building and move the Persephone and Healthy Being buildings to new locations in town.

The Historic Preservation Board and a grassroots group led by the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance have opposed the rezone, demanding more on-site preservation than just the Cafe Genevieve building. The rezone request has been postponed indefinitely.

The board and the conservation alliance group called upon the town to hold off on rezoning the Cafe Genevieve block until this planned overhaul of the town and county’s historic preservation strategy.

County commissioners approved the contract 4-1, with Mark Barron opposed.

“I have a very strong concern with the politics that have come up recently in respect to your organization and perhaps one or two other local organizations who are, in my opinion, using historic preservation as a means to stop reasonable development,” Barron said.

Stirn said the project’s goal is to arrive at a “community consensus” on how to approach preservation.

“We’re not trying to impose anything on the community,” Stirn said. “We’re simply responding to concerns within the community about how we preserve the character of our town moving forward.”

The consultants will conduct a public process to determine what kind of incentives and regulations make sense to foster historic preservation in Jackson and Teton County. Currently, the preservation board’s only authority is placing 90-day stays on demolition permits in the town of Jackson. Teton County doesn’t have any regulations or incentives in place to facilitate historic preservation.

“Communities that put effort into preserving their historic culture stand out,” Commissioner Mark Newcomb said.

The contract covers summarizing existing conditions and assessing the community’s options, but the town and county will have to budget an additional $28,850 if they want to hire the firm to develop the preservation strategy.

Update hourly