WGFD housing schematic

The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission is considering adding up to 16 employee housing units for its Jackson Region staff. The structures, still in the planning phases, would be built on the highway side of the South Park Wildlife Habitat Management Area.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is considering adding up to 16 residences 5 miles south of Jackson to help its staff afford housing in Jackson Hole.

The state agency has contracted with Plan One Architects to design the development, which would be located on the eastern fringe of the 907-acre South Park Wildlife Habitat Management Area, clustered along South Highway 89 approximately opposite Jackson Hole Gun Club’s shooting range.

“We’re trying to be very [respectful] of the habitat, placing the housing up by the highway and not impacting habitat down below in the river bottoms,” Dan Odasz, the architectural firm’s president, told commissioners during a virtual meeting last week.

There are two phases to the development plan, which is still in early design and approval stages. Up first, the agency would build six homes for full-time employees, each about 1,700 square feet with three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a two-car garage. The first phase also includes a single larger six-bedroom house for seasonal staff.

The second phase Odasz outlined would be located immediately adjacent to first batch of homes. Built at an undetermined date in the future, the second phase would add another nine three-bedroom, two-bathroom homes.

Wyoming Game and Fish’s governor-appointed commission has not committed major funding to the development but is taking the idea seriously.

Odasz is looking into three types of designs for the South Park homes and seeking cost estimates for each. Prefabricated homes located on the land the agency already owns would cost an estimated $3.5 million to $3.9 million for the first phase of seven structures. About $1.9 million of that would be for the buildings themselves, while $900,000 would go toward developing the site with roads and utilities. Another $800,000 would cover “soft costs.”

Odasz recommended commissioners take two steps to move the project forward: contract with Jorgensen Associates to drill a water well to ensure the site has potable water and start the rezoning process with Teton County.

“I’m told the rezoning process in Jackson can take quite a while — four to six months,” Odasz said.

Commissioners wanted firmer figures about potential costs before sinking agency funds into the development. The update about the plans was informational, and no action was taken.

Pat Crank, a Cheyenne attorney, said it seemed silly to spend nearly $1 million on infrastructure for a first phase that would not meet the agency’s long-term housing needs in the valley. He also worried that the state agency would be “subject to extortion” by Teton County and would have to pay housing mitigation fees.

Game and Fish’s deputy director of internal operations, John Kennedy, told him that the fees wouldn’t be assessed. Crank wanted that assurance in writing.

In the long term, the addition of the Game and Fish-owned rental homes would eliminate the expense of a $1,630 monthly housing stipend for full-time staff. The high cost of Teton County housing is bad enough for Game and Fish’s staff that even its highest-paid regional employee, Supervisor Brad Hovinga, needed assistance when he took the job five years ago. The state agency ended up leasing a home for its regional supervisor at a cost of up to $3,900 monthly over the next three years.

Contact Mike Koshmrl at 732-7067 or env@jhnewsandguide.com.

Mike has reported on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem's wildlife, wildlands and the agencies that manage them since 2012. A native Minnesotan, he arrived in the West to study environmental journalism at the University of Colorado.

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