Landowners and some county commissioners want to see a better explanation of the financial assumptions the consultants used to draft preliminary options for building 100 to over 2,000 homes in North South Park.
“$ 400,000 in public money, and we can’t do the math?” Said Commissioner Mark Barron at a recent county meeting. He cited the price the city and county paid for the planning effort and lamented the decision of consultant Opticos Design Inc. and its subcontractor, Cascadia Partners, not to publish a spreadsheet of the financial models behind the alternatives.
The consultant had said the spreadsheet was “proprietary” but released a PDF version of the document.
After weeks of debate, Teton County Planning and Construction Manager Chris Neubecker said in an email to the Jackson Hole Daily on Friday that more details on the financial analysis in question should be provided. But he said he didn’t know when it would be released to the public. Commissioners requested that new information be made available to the public for comment.
“Our consultants provide more information and documentation on where they got the data and other assumptions used in the model, and why they think this data is appropriate for this planning process,” Neubecker wrote.
The Gill family, one of two landowner families in the area, lobbied for the release of the Excel spreadsheet, which would contain the formulas underlying the calculations and information on “basic assumptions, methodology, calculations and source data “used in models that underpin the development alternatives of the territory.
Their lawyer, Amberley Baker, criticized the pace of the response when asked where she thought the process was.
Baker said in an emailed statement to The Daily that he “was not up at all.”
Instead, she wrote, “he’s crawling over to that county planning shelf (where 30 years of other workforce proposals lie) because in this case, the process is now being held to ransom by California consultants “- the consultants’ zip code has been a consistent whip for critics of the process -” who will not disclose the basic public financial information behind their calculations. Transparency apparently requires an add-on to the consulting contract of almost half a million dollars and a longer public process – and that’s not true. “
Neubecker did not directly answer the question of whether acquiring the information the Gills demanded would cost more money. In his email, he wrote that the county’s goal is to get information “appropriate for this planning project, under the existing contract”.
He said the County of Teton and the City of Jackson have already paid Opticos $ 198,746 of the $ 400,000 budget for the project.
Les Gill argue that understanding the assumptions and calculations underlying financial models is essential to understanding values such as the public subsidy that the models project would require to build affordable housing: a projection that ranges from $ 100 million. $ 500 million as density increases in alternatives.
These proposals were released in August and public comments were officially closed on September 7. Teton County is currently compiling these comments into a neighborhood map for public review.
Landowner Nikki Gill criticized the process in a September 9 email to county commissioners.
“Withholding detailed information from the two Northern South Park landowners on how the financial analyzes were derived is contrary to how the process is supposed to work,” she wrote in a letter sent by the team. Gills Development Center.
Gill referred to the 2012 Jackson / Teton County Comprehensive Plan which says the area should be planned in consultation with the landowners: the Gills and Lockharts.
“Let’s face it, without the buy-in from the landowners, this plan will never work,” she wrote.
Teton County, Opticos and the sub-consultant who developed the models, Cascadia, released a PDF spreadsheet of the analysis supporting the alternatives before the public comments closed. And they released slides on some of the model’s assumptions that show, among other things, how the government subsidy would be allocated to land values above $ 100,000 an acre. That’s why the models say a developer would buy the land, and some process watchers have said it’s way too low.
These documents do not appear to answer all of the Gill’s questions, which relate to park development costs, infrastructure costs and land prices, including the land value of $ 100,000 per acre.
The Gills also generally ask for a better explanation of how the consultants got the numbers they used.
Alex Joyce, a partner at Cascadia, has said in emails that the Excel spreadsheet behind the models – something the Gills requested – cannot be released because it is “owned.”
Deputy County Chief Prosecutor Keith Gingery told The Daily last Tuesday that after a meeting between the Gills, County and Consultants, Neubecker was speaking with the Consultants to answer questions from the family.
“A lot of the questions raised by the Gills also apply to the county,” Gingery said. “If there are questions about the product, we have to ask the question.
Barron wasn’t the only commissioner interested in seeing more numbers.
Commissioner Greg Epstein called for an “open audit” of the models, and Commissioner Luther Propst asked about legal options for obtaining the information at a meeting on September 7.
Commissioners have not asked public questions about the situation since that meeting, where Gingery said he was trying to work things out and get information without legal action.
But the commissioners asked planning staff to give the public an opportunity to comment on any new information obtained and published. Calls to Opticos and Cascadia were not returned.