Porter estate

A bill that would pave the way for families to subdivide ranches in Teton County is advancing in the Wyoming Senate.

Sen. Mike Gierau, D-Teton, supported House Bill 196 on the floor.

“I’m in support of ranch families being able to split their ranches up in accordance with state law,” he said.

The intent of the state’s family homesite exemption is to allow ranchers to subdivide a plot so their kids can build a home and stay on the ranch. In Teton County, many can’t access the exemption.

Rural county zoning requires individual parcels to be at least 35 acres, so while Teton County will allow a family subdivision under the state exemption, nothing can be built on the subdivided parcel because the county won’t grant a building permit if the parcel is smaller than that. House Bill 196 would require Teton County to issue those permits.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Shelly Duncan, R-Goshen, told a Senate committee that House Bill 196 prevents “rogue, over-reaching” counties from abusing a state statute that exempts family homesites from subdivision restrictions.

“There were some overzealous local regulators circumventing our statutes,” Duncan told the committee.

Some Teton County officials worry that the legislation threatens local control over planning and zoning and would result in sprawl and unregulated growth in the county’s rural areas.

“That would certainly increase the amount of houses in the far-flung parts of the county,” Teton County Commissioner Mark Newcomb said, adding that could impact county infrastructure like road networks, waste management and water quality.

Gierau did bring forward an amendment that would have limited the total number of divisions under the family subdivision to eight when the land is owned by a business entity, aiming to ensure the bill helps who it’s intended for: longtime ranching families.

“What this amendment does, in my view, is try to limit what I would call bad actors,” Gierau said on the floor. “That would be a corporate situation, where a company comes in and buys a large portion of land, and then through shareholders tries to subvert the law of the state of Wyoming by subdividing it through shareholders.”

However, the amendment failed to win approval from the full Senate. Senators said ranching families often operate as business entities with more than eight members who are stakeholders in a ranch.

The bill requires two more readings before the Senate.

Contact Allie Gross at 732-7063, county@jhnewsandguide.com or @JHNGcounty.

Allie Gross covers Teton County government. Originally from the Chicago area, she joined the News&Guide in 2017 after studying politics and Spanish at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

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