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.