Arne Jorgensen Enters Town Council Race

By on May 25, 2018

(David Stubbs)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – There is more than a no-growth or pro-growth path for Jackson, Arne Jorgensen said. That’s one reason the award-winning architect has entered the race for Town Council.

He said notions of community and conservation have been pitted against each other.

“There is a conflict there in how those two relate. Our dialogue within that context tends to be pro-growth or no growth. I just can’t accept that.”

The Jackson native wants to explore different revenue streams to pay for infrastructure and housing. “We are not a community that has come to grips with how to pay for those things,” he said, referencing the failed increase to the General Excise Tax and the SPET initiatives voted down in 2016. To that end, he said he is a big proponent of the Lodging Tax.

“I will be voting for it. I recognize the 40 percent [managed by the town and county] generates revenue that we need in this community and until we find revenue streams to replace that, I think it would be irresponsible to not support it as a governmental body,” he said.

Still, Jorgensen sees a need to explore and adjust how the other 60 percent is spent. That portion is managed by the Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism Board and goes toward the marketing of Jackson Hole.

Jackson, he said, is on the precipice of becoming a “resort”—where an increasing number of people “are finding it harder and harder to live here, to be part of the community.”

The solutions, he said, are very nuanced. But Jorgensen said his background in housing and development lend perspective.

“As an architect, I get a little frustrated when I hear growth defined as ‘X’ amount of square feet for commercial development or ‘X’ number of units. But I also recognize the Comp Plan has established that. So within that, the much more intriguing question is how do we do that and what are we accommodating when we accept that change in the community?”

For example, a single unit built on riparian land in the county has a vastly different impact than a unit built in town, he said. The same could be said about a square foot of commercial space located in a strip mall on the west side of Jackson versus a square foot in the walkable portion of downtown.

“To me, part of the solution is how are we defining what we want and how are we defining a regulatory mechanism to get there.”

Jorgensen is a “housing advocate” at his core. He is a founding board member of the Jackson Hole Community Housing Trust. He believes in finding synergy between the public and private sectors.  Housing mitigation rates, for example, are too high: “If we stay on this path, there will be a real push in Cheyenne to remove the mitigation tool.”

That tool dictates what percentage of development builders must create for their employees. Both the town and county planning commissions recommended this week to lower mitigation rates. The commissions’ direction comes as Town Council and the Teton County Board of Commissioners consider higher mitigation requirements.

But lowering mitigation rates does not mean allowing the private sector “to do what they do without restrictions.” That would simply delay Jackson becoming a resort for a couple more generations, Jorgensen said.

Jorgensen launched Hawtin Jorgensen Architects with Bruce Hawtin almost 20 years ago. He is an emeritus and former board member of the Wyoming Community Foundation and a board member and past president of the Wyoming State Board of Architects and Landscape Architects. His father is former State Representative Pete Jorgensen.

There are two open seats on the Town Council, those of Councilors Don Frank and Bob Lenz.

Lenz is stepping down after 12 years and Frank announced his bid for re-election in January. Jessica Sell-Chambers, Judd Grossman and Zachary Padilla are also vying for seats on the council.

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About Robyn Vincent

Robyn is the editor of Planet Jackson Hole and Jackson Hole Snowboarder Magazine. When she's not sweating deadlines, she likes to travel the world with her notebook and camera in hand. Follow her on Twitter @TheNomadicHeart

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