Developer Larry Huhn asked at a Monday workshop whether Teton County commissioners will work with him to advance a plan to add workforce housing next to Munger Mountain Elementary School.
“I just need a basic approval from you guys to say, ‘This is a priority,’” Huhn said.
He’ll have to wait a little longer for a reply because commissioners continue to figure out whether they can legally proceed on Huhn’s proposal — and whether they want to.
Huhn proposed in February an alteration of the 2012 Jackson/Teton County Comprehensive Plan to add a new neighborhood 7 miles south of town. He has an option on an 84-acre parcel, adjacent to Munger Mountain Elementary School, that he says is suitable for concentrated workforce housing, close to the school and a newly expanded five-lane highway. He envisions a single-family neighborhood with homes restricted to full-time Teton County workers.
Commissioners and town councilors rejected the comp plan amendment application in a 7-2 vote on April 23 citing concerns about permanent affordability, development sprawl and traffic. Commission Chairwoman Natalia Macker and Commissioner Mark Barron dissented.
Town and county officials agreed to conduct a growth management study focused on where density might be added in the county, but Huhn doesn’t have time to await that outcome before his contract runs out.
Because Hog Island is in the county, Huhn’s team later asked commissioners to reconsider without the Town Council, and the board complied.
“You were elected to represent the county, not just the town,” consultant Scott Pierson said. “You shouldn’t be able to control the town with three votes and they shouldn’t be able to control you.”
Commissioner Greg Epstein wanted more information on implications for transit and details of how the homes would be restricted for workers.
“How do you guys structure your deed restrictions so they can’t be gamed?” Epstein said. “I need a more specific deed restriction. Right now it’s still kind of in the ether as to what exactly they are.”
Commissioner Mark Newcomb was not in support of moving forward with the plan because of wildlife issues. But Barron favored prioritizing Huhn’s proposal, saying wildlife has access to the 97% of the county that is protected land.
“The reality is housing is needed in this community,” Barron said. “I would be prepared to ask staff to work in earnest with our applicant to explore the possibility and practicality of this 100% deed-restricted housing project.”
It’s unclear how the Hog Island housing proposal can proceed legally after its rejection by the town and county in April, Macker said. Commissioners plan to consult attorneys in coming days.
As for Huhn, if he doesn’t have a “yes” from three county commissioners in the next few days, he plans to give up his contract on the property and move on, he said.