GUEST OPINION: Don’t let Jackson become Vail

By on March 10, 2015

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – A dozen years ago my girlfriend Stacy (now wife of nearly nine years) gave me a T-shirt that still rings true. It was a plain white shirt with the words “Vail Sucks” across the chest.

Slightly inappropriate? Yes. Accurate? Absolutely.

We had spent an early April weekend in Vail skiing and enjoying the nightlife before heading south for some additional skiing in Silverton and then on to the desert southwest (part of the seasonal Jackson migration to warmer climes).

Driving out of town I couldn’t stop thinking about what was wrong with Vail. The skiing was OK, though a little boring. The freeway slicing through the middle of town didn’t help. The faux-Western architecture definitely cheesed things up.

But it was the fact that every night the town emptied out and only tourists remained that made Vail feel all wrong. Vail isn’t a community; it’s a resort.

Vail got this way in large part because of land use rules that encouraged too much commercial development and lodging, instead of housing for its workforce. Accordingly, Vail lost its balance and residents were forced to move down valley so that at night, only visitors remained.

There’s an old saying, “Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.” And this couldn’t be truer than right now.

As currently crafted, the proposed update to the District 2 (Downtown) land development regulations (LDRs) would encourage a dramatic expansion of commercial development in Downtown Jackson along with significant expansion of lodging, short-term rentals, and higher-end condos (i.e. second homes); while failing to encourage housing for our diverse workforce and not linking the changes in town to the permanent protection of open space in our rural areas.

Right now, under the proposed District 2 LDRs, Jackson is poised to follow in Vail’s footsteps toward becoming just another resort.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

We have a responsibility to write land use rules that align with our community’s vision as articulated in our Comprehensive Plan: A vision of a community with walkable neighborhoods surrounded by protected open space, working agricultural lands, and connected wildlife habitat. A community where at least two-thirds of our diverse workforce can affordably rent or purchase a safe and healthy home that meets their family’s needs.

To achieve this vision the proposed District 2 LDRs should zone for more housing, less commercial development, and less lodging while directly linking District 2 changes to permanent protection of open space in our rural areas.

The last thing any of us want is to become like Vail. Together we can fulfill our responsibility to write land use rules that align with our community’s vision and keep Jackson a strong community.

Please email the Town Council today at, and tell them not to let Jackson become another Vail.

About Craig Benjamin

Craig Benjamin is the executive director of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login