FROM OUR READERS

By on December 15, 2015

Housing solution right above our heads

Affordable housing in Houston thanks to the art organization, Project Row Houses. (Photo: Planet file photo)

Affordable housing in Houston thanks to the art organization, Project Row Houses. (Photo: Planet file photo)

Grow up, Jackson. Literally. That’s the solution to the housing problem here and it may just be the means to preserving the integrity of small town life throughout America. Urban style apartments and condos, 10-story mini-skyscrapers artistically rendered in the heart of downtown little America. I’m serious. Feel that knee-jerk reaction and then keep reading.

We’ve got a growing population on our hands, it’s a demographic fact. And why wouldn’t people want to come here to make a living, whether seasonal or full-time? A vibrant local economy, easy access to public lands, clean air and water, small town charm and a talented community of achievers, not to mention the Tetons as a backdrop, make Jackson what it is–great! But being great is a total catch-22. If a place is really wonderful, a lot of people want to be there, and if lots of people go there then the place changes and it’s often not so great anymore.

So we want to preserve the character of Jackson, the place we know and love, in order to maintain its integrity. But the people are coming, and this lovely place will continue to change whether we want it to or not. Jackson is different than it was 20 years ago, from what I’ve been told, and that 1996 version of Jackson is different from what the town people knew in ‘66. It’ll be different in 2026, too. There will be impacts from population growth; that much is guaranteed.

But some of the qualities we like best about Jackson and small town America can be preserved through smart growth. We will grow, outward or upward. If we grow outward, our ranch land will become the suburbs. There will be more roads, increased traffic and air pollution, and less space available for game. We will become even more commuter oriented and covered in concrete. In short, we will be just like everywhere else, and that’s not Jackson. If we choose to grow up instead of out, we’ll have a centralized population living in modern, energy and space efficient dwellings, a population who needn’t be automobile commuters. This will relieve pressure on ranchers to sell out to developers as well as commuter congestion from excessive traffic. It will keep our air clean and our noise pollution low. Preserving open space rather than becoming another suburban parking lot is more in tune with the spirit of old Jackson and small town America. Keep the ranch land open, keep the game wild, keep the economy bustling.

Growing taller in a confined area is the best way to protect everything else around that area. It’s more efficient and it will significantly ease development pressure on open green space. Make the buildings look good, like art. Develop in areas that don’t obscure the mountain views. This is Jackson. We can do it better here. Who knows, we may even like it.

– Frankie McCarthy

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