Legacy Lodge preview

The Teton County Board of County Commissioners is expected to decide if the Darwiches can move forward with their plans to convert Legacy Lodge into workforce housing Tuesday.

When county commissioners last discussed the future of 57 high-potential units of the Legacy Lodge building two weeks ago, they wanted more information on complex planning issues.

That request was heard by the attorney for the Rafter J homeowners association, Kevin Gregory, who submitted about three pages of what he called “analogous” decisions from the Teton County Board of County Commissioners on April 26.

“My understanding is that this desire for historic precedent was shared by the other members of the Board and will be a focus of the May 3, 2022, meeting,” Gregory wrote.

If Gregory is right, the commissioners’ discussion to possibly move forward with the Darwiche family’s proposal for workforce housing will largely consider the county precedent.

While public comment for the item is closed, in the background loom statements from members of the Rafter J subdivision that if the county approves the Darwiches’ project and moves forward without the consent of the HOA, they’ll sue.

Gregory laid out an argument for why commissioners should disapprove of Legacy Lodge becoming workforce housing with master leases rented out by the Darwiches, detailing how that use would violate Rafter J’s private governing covenants, conditions and restrictions.

Instead of citing HOA case law, Gregory pointed to recent local zoning amendment decisions from the Board of County Commissioners. The two cases he cited were highly publicized and resulted in denials of workforce housing plans.

His first example was a 2019 amendment to the Comprehensive Plan in Hog Island that would have created between 125 and 200 workforce ownership homes. The commissioners at the time, the letter summarizes, were concerned about vague housing restrictions, strain on public services like roads and START, and the development being out of line with the comp plan in the suburban location.

In 2020, commissioners denied an upzone request to northern South Park landowners, the Gill family, that aimed to make way for another couple hundred deed-restricted housing units. Some commissioners then, Gregory wrote, were worried about the project being litigated for being unlawfully “spot zoned.”

Unlike the two examples cited, creating workforce housing at Legacy Lodge wouldn’t require new development. But it would require a conditional use permit and PUD amendment.

The former senior living facility is mostly empty now, save for the handful of occupants whom the Darwiches have said are caretakers, but whom residents have said include employees of Hotel Jackson, the Darwiche-owned hotel in downtown Jackson.

Tuesday’s discussion will take place in advance of the summer housing crunch in what is already Jackson Hole’s tightest housing market, reflected by record-high sales and record-low inventory.

But even if the county says yes to workforce rentals in Legacy Lodge, residents of the 492-home residential subdivision — at least those who have been publicly vocal — would still need to approve Stage Stop’s plan as an amendment to Rafter J CC&Rs. All signs point to the issue winding up in litigation before that becoming an option for the HOA vote.

Contact Sophia Boyd-Fliegel at county@jhnewsandguide.com or 307-732-7063.

Sophia covers county politics, housing, and workforce issues. A Pacific Coast devotee, she grew up in Washington, studied in California and has worked in Oregon and Alaska.

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