Jackson Hole, WY News

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The Legislature has sent two bills undermining local control to Gov. Mark Gordon’s desk. We urge him to preserve local governance by vetoing both. These bills are attacks on our zoning regulations.

While those promoting Senate File 49 — County zoning authority-private schools — may have good intentions to offer more private school options, doing an end-run around local zoning, brings unintended consequences. Providing school choice for some means axing a community’s choice of where to expand water, sewer and roads. Lawmakers are in essence rezoning a slice of our county from low to high density.

House Bill 196 — Local regulation-subdivisions — would allow family subdivisions regardless of zoning or lot size by providing a special exception for many of those who hold the most land in Teton County. Rep. Andy Schwartz didn’t have to look far for evidence of how this exception is abused. He told fellow lawmakers how a lot next to his home was created, “in theory” for the landowner’s daughter, then sold a year and a day later, as soon as allowed under the law. How does that meet the bill’s goal of keeping ranch kids on the ranch? Schwartz amended the bill to at least make families hold the land a little longer.

SF49 and HB196 undercut our comprehensive plan, which our community worked hard to create as a way to establish shared goals of density, open space, efficient transportation and worker housing. Allowing legislators to overrule that work disrupts our community values and public process. State lawmakers also are signing up Teton County taxpayers to shoulder the costs of providing infrastructure to serve the unregulated rural subdivisions and unregulated private schools.

Trusting our commissioners to handle these decisions provides a fairer representation of what our community needs than state legislators who are out of touch with Teton County. Local electeds are not only more accountable but also more accessible to citizens who can’t lobby in Cheyenne.

Now is Gov. Gordon’s time to take a stand for local control by vetoing these bills. In Gordon’s words: “Government is best when it’s closest to the people.”

Hats off to local Reps. Schwartz, Mike Yin and Jim Roscoe, and Rep. Albert Sommers from HD20 to our south. These representatives worked to maintain representative democracy through local control and offered positive amendments. We thank them for making good governance a top priority.

This editorial represents the opinion of the News&Guide’s editorial board: Johanna Love, Rebecca Huntington, Kevin Olson and Adam Meyer.

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(5) comments

Ken Chison

Wow! An opinion piece from the JHNG editorial board. Looks like the comment section says like wise. It's almost a shame to see how much time and money had to be spent in Cheyenne to curb our local governments overreach. Guess the editorial board didn't research enough to find out what happened to the building lot they spoke of. Ouch! Good journalism takes a lot of investigating. In case the editorial board didn't know, JH is still Wyoming. Our local elected officials need to stick to the big items on the table. Plastic bag bans and solar panel placement.

Amy Edmonds

What utter nonsense. Education has and always will be the responsibility of the state first. School districts themselves sued the state in the second Campbell County Supreme Court decisions asking to have their local control over building schools taken away in favor of the state building schools. Which is what happens. Private schools deserve the same playing field as an important education deliverer in our state. Teton seems to forget far too often that it's a part of Wyoming, not California light. I'm sure the Governor understands the constitutional mandate the state has in terms of education. While "local control" fits for those on the left crying about this bill, it doesn't fit the actual educational mandate of our state.

Chad Repinski

Regarding that playing field...I should assume new schools will also have publicly elected governing boards? Teachers held to standards set by the state? A student body that's reflective of the community it serves? Can you comment on these elements for me within the context of the 'same playing field' you espouse?

Tim Rieser

This opinion piece misses the point. The comprehensive plan is a brazen piece of preferential zoning by millionaires and for millionaires. We live in Wyoming collectively. Cheyenne is not some faraway place unrelated to us. Further, Schwartz is complaining about a lot I now own which will have an affordable house on it. You see, Andy got his, and all the rest of you can go jump off a cliff.

Konrad Lau

It's strange how a group can vote in rules that inflict their :values" on another population miles away and diametrically opposed to their agenda and the same group can then plead to be left alone by an "over-reaching" government.
This is a sword that cuts in both directions.
The direction in which the edge is facing must be considered in every case.
Too bad there are those who truly believe they are smarter than everyone else and think they know better than the unwashed in the sticks how to live their lives.

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