Sandpoint Magazine Summer 2005 Sandpoint Magazine Summer 2005
Sandpoint Magazine

Sandpoint Magazine Summer 2005

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Case study: a comparison with Jackson, Wyo.

Some say Sandpoint, as a beautiful little Western ski town with a thriving arts community, will resemble Jackson, Wyo., in the future. Jackson is a town focused on tourism, an industry that brought in more than $402 million to Teton County in 2001. Sandpoint, with declining employment in timber and a small manufacturing base, is looking tourism straight in the eye. And $402 million in revenue is attractive. But Jackson Hole is not what Sandpoint residents want their town to be like. How close is the comparison?
In the 1970s, Teton County experienced a population boom of almost 94 percent, growing from 4,823 people to 9,355. Today, Teton County has 18,625 residents. In contrast, Bonner County took 34 years to double its population. The most recent boom, from 2000 to 2003, resulted in a modest 6.3 percent growth in population.
The biggest fear with growth is rising property values, a trend in Bonner County. In the last year, the average sales price increased about 8 percent. Still, average property prices are about 75 percent of the national average. The same can’t be said for Jackson Hole, where the average sales price of a home is $743,000. Most people who work in Jackson live in communities up to 40 miles away, and 39.1 percent of homes within the county were “second homes” in 1990.
Jeanne Jackson-Heim, executive director of the Selkirk Association of Realtors in Sandpoint, knows Jackson Hole. She moved there in the late ‘70s to work at Grand Teton National Park and lived there for more than 14 years, even serving one term as the city’s mayor. “It’s tough if you just want to get started there,” she said. “It’s become an unfortunate situation.”
Part of Jackson’s housing dilemma is because only 3 percent of the land is available for private ownership. “There’s not a lot of development potential there,” Jackson-Heim explained.
Development should be driven, she said, by a simple rule: “Don’t leave a mess for the next person to clean up.”
Will Sandpoint go the way of Jackson Hole, becoming a great place to visit but one where the average person can’t afford to live? Not likely, according to Jackson-Heim. “This area is relatively undeveloped.” It will be a long time before the area’s housing supply can’t keep up with demand, sending prices into the stratosphere.

Trish Gannon

Winter 2005

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