Housing mitigation

The new Cowboy Coffee near Maverik at Broadway and South Park Loop, show under construction in August, includes employee housing, a requirement of new commercial development in the valley.

Housing mitigation rates are back on the docket Monday evening, weeks after town and county elected officials ordered commercial rates reduced by 50% as an interim step before collecting more data.

“That was the policy direction,” Teton County Planning Director Chris Neubecker told the Jackson Hole Daily, “and now staff is implementing that.”

The Teton County Planning Commission will meet at 6 p.m. Monday to consider the issue, beginning the public process of bringing the county’s land development regulations in line with the Jackson Town Council and Teton County Board of County Commissioners’ ruling. A presentation about water quality in Jackson Hole will precede the meeting at 5:30 p.m.

The town and county’s housing mitigation program operates under the assumption that new development creates new jobs and, consequently, more demand for housing.

The policy requires developers of commercial and residential properties to build affordable housing or pay local government a fee to do so.

The amount of housing required — or the fees paid in lieu of construction — is linked to the number of workers unable to afford a market-rate home that new development is expected to generate.

In 2018, the town and county updated the policy, which has existed in concept since 1995, to reduce the rate that residential developers are required to pay and to up the rate for commercial developers.

The change drew consternation from some parts of the business community, and after lobbying the Wyoming Legislature advanced bills aimed at ending the policy.

Those bills have failed, but they created the impression that the program has a target on its back.

At an Oct. 13 meeting, both five-member boards voted 3-2 to chop commercial rates by 50%.

Commissioners Mark Newcomb and Luther Propst dissented, as did Town Councilors Jim Stanford and Jonathan Schechter. Schechter had pushed for a smaller reduction.

The Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce supported the move, arguing that the changes made to the commercial program two years ago were too high.

The Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance lamented the reversal, but Executive Director Skye Schell told the Jackson Hole News&Guide then that he didn’t fault officials “for bowing to political pressure from Cheyenne.”

Shelter JH, a group that advocates for affordable housing in Jackson Hole, has since supported the move as a “difficult yet necessary” choice to preserve the program more broadly.

Officials who supported cutting the rate in October said they could change again after the town and county complete a new Housing Nexus Study, which will seek to estimate how many employees are generated by different types of development.

The last Nexus study, which provided data underpinning the mitigation rates, was conducted in 2013.

Those looking to tune into the meeting and give public comment can do so via Zoom using the webinar ID 972 4535 1460. Dialing in by phone is also an option: 669-900-6833.

Contact Billy Arnold at 732-7063 or barnold@jhnewsandguide.com.

Teton County Reporter

Previously the Scene editor, Billy Arnold made the switch to the county beat where he's interested in exploring Teton County as a model for the rest of the West. When he can, he still writes about art, music and whatever else suits his fancy.

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