Jackson Councilor Jim Stanford has suggested yanking $850,000 in public funding from the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce after the group’s recent testimony about housing regulations before state lawmakers.
Ultimately, the suggestion didn’t win the favor of the remaining members of the Jackson Town Council, who instead preferred to draft a letter to legislators urging them to respect local control when it comes to housing regulations.
On Sept. 16 and 17, the Legislature’s Joint Interim Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee met at Teton County Library. Jackson was selected for the meeting following heated debates about local control during the last session, including a failed bill introduced by Rep. Shelly Duncan, R-Goshen, that would have gutted Jackson’s affordable housing program.
The bill sought to prohibit towns and counties from requiring developers to build or pay for mitigation housing as part of a new project. Following a public engagement process, the town and county approved new (and controversial) housing exaction rules in July 2018, upping the requirements for how much developers — especially commercial developers — must pay toward housing when building a new project.
The housing bill, titled House Bill 277, didn’t make it onto the state committee’s agenda. But as the lawmakers wrapped up their Jackson meeting, Duncan asked the committee to revive the bill. Members voted to bring the bill back for consideration at a November meeting in Cheyenne, with a single “no” vote from Rep. Andi Clifford, D-Fremont.
Duncan cited “testimony” from a lunch with advocacy group Jackson Hole Working as a reason for bringing back the bill. Jackson Hole Working told the News&Guide the group hasn’t taken a formal position on any bill at this time, but did say “we support many aspects of HB277 and believe strongly in incentive-based tools that this bill actively encourages.”
The sudden reintroduction of the bill, without an opportunity for substantial vetting or public discussion while the committee convened in Teton County, upset many local elected officials.
Stanford also took issue with public testimony Chamber of Commerce President Anna Olson provided to the committee. Olson told lawmakers that Jackson hasn’t seen any new business licenses since the regulations were approved (though Olson later said she meant to say commercial development permits), and said the current housing exaction rates are too high and penalize the business community.
Olson said the chamber has for years advocated for the 900 businesses that make up its membership. And, Olson said, the chamber has been consistent and open about standing against the raised housing exaction rates enacted last year.
Read more in this week's Jackson Hole News&Guide.