Molly Hughes:  Help Me Convince County Commissioners To Say Yes To My Future Habitat Neighbors

Guest columnist Molly Hughes writes, "Teton County has the opportunity for 45 acres of free private land given to non-profit housing developers for needed housing, proposed to be given by the Gill Family as part of a long overdue housing development.  But it’s unclear if the majority of Teton County Commissioners will allow that needed housing to happen."  

CS
CSD Staff

February 14, 20246 min read

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At the outset, thanks for your time to read this column.  It will only take you a minute.

 I rarely ask for anything publicly.  More often than not – via the Hughes Charitable Foundation – giving is my preference.  I am proud of the positive impact HCF has made in the lives of thousands of people across this wonderful state.

 But today, I need to ask for your help. 

 We’re a small state, and lots of folks will be in the same place during the Legislative session. With the Wyoming County Commission Association meeting in Cheyenne this week for the Legislature, there might be no better time than now to make a real difference. 

If you know or happen to be talking to a Teton County Commissioner while they are in Cheyenne, maybe you can lend a hand to help me help Habitat families in need by asking a Teton County Commissioner to say Yes to housing.  And to say yes to reasonable housing regulations to incentivize housing on land next door to where I live.

Teton County has the opportunity for 45 acres of free private land given to non-profit housing developers for needed housing, proposed to be given by the Gill Family as part of a long overdue housing development.  But believe it or not, it’s unclear if the majority of Teton County Commissioners will allow that needed housing to happen.  

The County starts its hearings next Tuesday, February 20th on its own land development regulations for that housing area, adjacent to existing County and Town development.  This effort is following the County Commissioners’ unanimous approval back in November 2022 of a local land use plan calling for housing regulations in this area of Teton County. 

The neighborhood in question – on the proposed 45 acres of free private land for needed housing – will be comprised of Habitat families and more.  It is right next door to me – and I can’t wait to welcome new Habitat families as my neighbors.  I want to help make their homes happen, so they can live and thrive in the Northern South Park area of Teton County.  I will be out there with my hammer, learning carpentry, and giving my faith, heart and strength for my new neighbors.  And yes, I will be helping their fundraising efforts.

But none of that can happen if Teton County delays its decision to have yet another study or another local land use plan on top of the last four years of review, or votes against regulations that enable a private market solution for affordable housing on free private land.  Again, a neighborhood on this land is not a new idea.  The County’s own vision for this land is in the local land use plan they unanimously approved. 

Teton County may say it is ‘complicated’ because the neighborhood will include free market private property homes.  That’s because to some in Teton County, the free market is the problem.  But they’d be failing to acknowledge that their own regulations require 70% of the homes in the neighborhood to be deed restricted as affordable in perpetuity.  I believe that may be the highest required rate of deed restricted homes in a neighborhood on private land that our State has ever seen.  So they’ve drafted a set of rules and regulations for this proposed area, allowing no more than 30% market and 70% non-free market or deed restricted units.

Some in Teton County are proposing other costly regulations that require climate change analysis for every home.  Some will demand that no free market homes can be built until the 70% deed restricted homes are built.  Or a new angle that, despite 30 years of future sewer treatment capacity in the community, opponents will try to weaponize our public sewer system (which was funded by state and federal dollars) to say new growth can’t happen. 

It’s a regulatory hornets nest.  And I don’t profess to understand why. 

But what I do know is this…if we can get to Yes for this already planned neighborhood, out of it could be dozens of children thriving with a roof over their heads, families and single moms with secure, stable housing.  If three commissioners can say yes to already planned land development.

The housing shortage in Teton County is off-the-charts-dire.  The deplorable conditions that families face – overcrowding in overpriced rentals, uninsulated rooms, mold, leaking roofs, constant fear of eviction – are worsened by years of no action, delay or denial of new housing supply in Teton County.   Below standard living conditions are being normalized because of the lack of new housing supply in Teton County. 

What will it take to house these families?  A simple Yes from the Teton County Commissioners.  And then let the power of philanthropy go to work.  The political will for a working family subdivision in Northern South Park has not happened since the mid-80s.  And that is one big reason we have a housing shortage in Teton County.  There is land in Teton County for housing, in fact there is 45 free acres – if the Teton County Commissioners vote Yes in the coming weeks.

When you see Teton County Commissioners, encourage them to stop making it so complicated and costly by their regulatory approach.  Stop stopping solutions for housing.  My request for your help:   ask them to keep the regulations clean, incentive-based and let the power of philanthropy go to work in the private sector.

Ask them in an email to simply say Yes! to housing solutions in Northern South Park:

  Luther Propst – lpropst@tetoncountywy.gov

  Natalia Macker – nmacker@tetoncountywy.gov

  Greg Epstein – gepstein@tetoncountywy.gov

  Mark Newcomb – mnewcomb@tetoncountywy.gov

  Wes Gardner – wgardner@tetoncountywy.gov

Thanks for your help!

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