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Teton County Commission OKs “Historic” Worker Housing Project

in Teton County/News
20814

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By Jennifer Kocher, CowboyStateDaily.com

The Teton County Commissioners voted unanimously June 8 to approve a zoning change that will pave the way for up to 26 workforce housing units to be built on donated land north of Hoback Junction.  

The Jackson Hole Community Housing Trust (JHCHT), which is overseeing the project on behalf of Comunidad, LLC, requested a zone change from rural to suburban. This would allow for development of the detached single-family homes on the 13.13-acre property on Henry’s Road, east of S. Highway 89.

Local residents Paul and Kathy Spicer donated the land which now serves as the grounds for A-OK Corral, a commercial horseback riding operation. The Hughes Charitable Foundation (HCF) also donated $10 million for this and another project.

JHCHT Executive Director Anne Cresswell told commissioners that these gifts offered a “tremendous opportunity to develop desperately affordable housing to provide urgent and essential services for our community’s at-risk and crisis residents.”

The housing is earmarked for personnel who work in 13 different “essential” areas as designated by the Human Services Council organizations. These include law enforcement and emergency services, senior center employees, childcare and literacy workers among others. 

The units will be 100% guaranteed deed-restricted affordable housing for employees of the specified local organizations. Deed restrictions are legal documents filed in the county that place various restrictions on the sale and use of a property to ensure that houses remain affordable for future sales. 

The Spicers received a round of applause at the meeting when they explained what propelled them to donate the land. Paul Spicer’s father purchased the property 40 years ago. The couple bought it from Spicer’s siblings with the goal of developing it into affordable housing.

“My dad loved this part of the country,” he said. “He died a number of years ago, but he would be looking down and saying that property I bought…is going to help a community I really love.”

Kathy Spicer also spoke, explaining the roots of their company, Comunidad, LLC. The name means ‘community’ in Spanish, which is her first language.

“My parents were immigrants,” she said, “And that’s our wish. This community.”

Molly Hughes, executive director of HCF, also credited the Spicers for their gift of land and said the foundation was thrilled to be part of the project. 

“This development will provide housing for locals who are already living in our community,” Hughes told Cowboy State Daily Wednesday. “These homes will be for local families who are currently under-housed or experiencing housing insecurity. These people provide vital services, and we need them living in our community.”

This is the first time in the 31-year history of the Housing Trust that they have had in hand all requisite philanthropy required to develop up to 25 affordable homes, Executive Director Anne Cresswell said.

“Typically, this kind of fundraising takes years to come together,” she said. “It’s our sincere hope that these awe-inspiring commitments will inspire others in the community to be a part of the solution; the lack of affordable housing in Teton County affects every sector of our community.”

Some Potential Problems



The Teton Planning Commission previously recommended approval for the project by a 2-1 vote, but the planning director recommended denying it because the land was in a conservation preservation district. Ryan Hostetter, the county’s principal long-range planner, said the project did not meet the county’s Comprehensive Plan goals for growth management.  

Hostetter told Cowboy State Daily that the Comprehensive Plan limits officials’ recommendations to what is allowed in the plan, and typically, new housing projects should be able to tie into existing water and other municipal infrastructure.

The planning commission does not have authority to approve or deny a project but rather gives its recommendation based on these guidelines, Hostetter said. 

Some local conservation groups and neighbors voiced opposition to housing of the project’s density being built in the rural area, particularly in the Hoback area which is known for water quality issues and excessive nitrate amounts.

Matt Bambach, water quality advocate for Protect Our Water Jackson Hole, said water quality tests in the canyon have repeatedly indicated levels of nitrate that exceed the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPAs) maximum containment limit. 

High levels of nitrate can have a negative impact on how the blood carries oxygen, particularly in infants, he noted.

“Robust and expensive filtration systems will likely be required to provide new residents with non-harmful water,” he said. “Whether this development will likely negatively impact downgrading water quality and quantity is also a concern.”

Some neighbors expressed concern about wastewater and septic tank systems and how the new homeowners would be able to afford upkeep and care.

Alison Lee, program director for JHCHT, said that they are working with Jackson engineering firm, Jorgensen, to develop an advanced wastewater treatment system for the development.

In a statement in the zoning application, Jorgensen said JHCHT will work with the Teton County engineering department and Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to overcome challenges and meet water quality requirements once zoning has been approved.

Lee said ongoing operations and maintenance costs would be borne by the residents. This is something they’ve done on the nine housing projects they’ve helped develop, Lee noted, which is built into the project’s budget.

“We produce a robust budget for the incoming HOA (homeowner’s association),” Lee told commissioners. “That’s part of our job as a developer, and in every case, we allow for the maintenance operation and replacement reserves for the infrastructure for those homeowners.”

Meghan Quinn, executive director for Protect Our Water Jackson Hole said this might be an opportunity for Teton County to address long-standing issues in both Fish and Flat Creek areas, particularly in addressing the elevated rates of nitrates in the drinking water.

She noted the more than $5.6 million the commissioners approved to upgrade the wastewater facilities in neighboring Wilson versus the $5,000 it allocated to address public health and environmental issues in Hoback.

“So if you decide to move forward with this rezone, please do not ask the Community Housing Trust to figure out their own water and wastewater issues,” Quinn said via Zoom.

Housing and Labor Breaking Point

The housing imbalance in Teton County has exacerbated in the past decade, according to a March 2022 Teton Region Housing Needs Assessment. Since 2010, jobs have outpaced twice the rate of housing. Currently, the assessment estimated a need for about 5,300 more housing units in the county by 2027.

Not only is there a severe housing shortage, but the few available rentals and properties are far too expensive for the average worker to afford.

Currently, a two-bedroom, one-bath condo in downtown Jackson costs upwards of $749,000 while the median cost price for a one-bedroom home is $1.2 million, according to a May 2022 housing report from Rocket Homes. The average home cost hovers at more than $3.6 million.

This shortage has taken its toll on many local businesses and organizations that are undergoing severe staffing shortages never seen before. Residents say the housing and labor shortages are greatly impacting the ability to provide much-needed services, particularly when it comes to childcare and caring for the disabled and elderly. 

Sarah Cavallaro, executive director of Teton Youth and Family Services, one of the organizations that will benefit from the proposed housing, said her organization has hit a “critical point” in its services.

Last year, the group asked the county for an additional $300,000, so it could increase the base pay for employees up to $20 an hour. At the same time, the organization saw a 40% increase in the need for services. Currently, Teton Youth and Family Services is providing services for nine children with an additional six on the waiting list due to staff shortages.

Though the organization has some housing in Victor, Idaho for employees, the entity is budgeting more money for housing incentives in order to attract prospective employees.

“We are totally in support of clean water for everyone,” Cavallaro said, “and if this is approved, I think this gives us the opportunity to have that conversation of how we make this happen. I’ve heard a lot of reasons of why we can’t, and I would love to hear how we can work together as a community to make this happen.”

An essential services worker is a rare breed, Cavallaro added, and she thinks area residents should be doing everything in their power to keep these workers in the community.

“There’s stress in our community right now in case we haven’t noticed,” she said. “I haven’t seen this level of mental health and behavioral health pressures in this community in my 22 years of living here.” 

This housing is a good first step, but there’s no question that the demand for these homes will outstrip supply, according to Cresswell.

A 2021 housing survey of 215 Human Service Council employees found that more than half were paying more than 50% in rental rates than they could afford, she said. Twelve months later and the average market rent of a 2-bedroom apartment in Teton County is up 56% from $2,665 in July 2021 to $4,172 in July 2022.

Pushback from Neighbors

Along with water quality and sewer issues, some neighbors questioned the density of housing that would be built on the roughly 6.5 acres that are developable. 

One area home and business owner, Jimmy Anderson, sympathized with the employee shortage that has also impacted his businesses but warned traffic congestion on an already busy highway.  The road also sees traffic from the local campground and trailer park. Some days he counts up to 50 cars before he can pull out, he said.

“They’re going to be zooming out on the highway,” he said. “It’s a tough little place.”

Anderson is also worried that the influx of dogs ­ – because “everybody in Teton County has a dog” – would attract cougars and other predators.

“Doggies are hors d’oeuvres,” he said.

Other neighbors like Matt and Alyson Bowers said the zoning change would alter the character of the rural area.  They said it would place the onus of covering the cost of housing workers on government instead of local business owners. The Bowers were also concerned about the cost of raising property values through increased development in a rural area.

“The affordable housing cry makes zero difference to the proposal,” Matt Bowers wrote in a letter to commissioners. “You have been wasting tax dollars to create seas of subsidized housing for the 16 years I’ve lived here and it’s done nothing but give local businesses a free pass on taking care of their own.”

He asked commissioners to keep the housing in town where density makes more sense.

“The quality of life is nose diving quickly due to agendas like yours,” he wrote.

The Only Tool in the Box

The idea of using the “suburban tool” as a means to deal with the current housing crisis was also a sticking point for both Commissioners Mark Newcomb and Luther Propst.

Ultimately, however, the commissioners said they conceded to the zone change given the severity of the housing crisis as well as the generous donation of both the Spicer family and the HCF.  The commissioners noted that the location for the development was not ideal.

Newcomb said that he’s personally going to think of putting a moratorium on suburban zoning changes in the future in order to preserve “community-wide discipline,” so they don’t leave the issue for the next group of five commissioners.

Both Newcomb and Propst are running for election this year.

Propst acknowledged the “slippery slope” prior to his vote to approve the project, which passed 4-0, with Commission Chairwoman Natalia Macker out on maternity leave.

“The location is not ideal, but that’s the county we live in,” Propst said, thanking the Spicers and HCF for their donations.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Mark Barron “enthusiastically” greenlighted the zone change.

“The suburban tool is the only tool potentially being used for affordable housing, so I enthusiastically support this motion,” he said.

Cresswell said the next step is to work on a detailed project planning and pre-construction cost estimating.

“As costs of construction continue to escalate, this is a race against the clock and we hope to break ground as soon as possible,” she said.

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Jackson Housing Crisis: Homes For Utility Workers Approved Despite Opposition

in Teton County/News
20170

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By Jen Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

A plan to house energy company workers in Jackson so they can rapidly respond to power outages has been approved by Teton County Commissioners.

Approval of the plan comes nearly six years after workers for the Lower Valley Energy Co-Operative (LVE), forced to live across Teton Pass from Jackson by high housing prices, were unable to respond to a major power outage in the community.

Commissioners on May 17 approved the sketch plan to allow LVE to build 17 single family houses on its land.

Approval of the plan for the deed-restricted homes south of Jackson off of U.S. Highway 89 was approved only after commissioners limited the proposed size of the home lots to 12,000 square feet.

The housing plan follows a massive blowdown in February 2017 in which 17 steel transmission lines in Teton Village snapped due to heavy winds, ice and snow. 

The outage cut off power to the ski area and surrounding neighborhoods for nearly five days, according to Brian Tanabe, LVE communication manager, impacting thousands of people and prompting the county to declare a state of emergency.

Due to avalanches and road closures, the utility could not get its largely Afton-based crew into the county, requiring the company to team up with five other utility companies from inside and outside Wyoming to mitigate the emergency.

The desire to have more emergency response employees living in Teton County, as well as offering housing as an incentive to attract and retain workers, was a driving force behind the project, said Co-Op CEO Jim Webb.

Most of LVE’s 75 employees live in Star Valley, Webb said, adding only one full-time and one part-time lineman actually live in Teton County.

Though the utility does have a condo for on-call emergency employees, most emergencies require a crew to fix the problem, he added.

Employee housing would also be helpful in attracting new employees who are interested in settling down and starting a family, Webb added. Most of LVE’s employees stay long-term, he added, with one employee recently retiring after 47 years and another retiring after 33.

LVE is working with other agencies to help meet housing needs. Under terms of the deed restrictions, the housing would be reserved for local employees who work more than 30 hours per week for a local business or earn 75% of their income locally. Residents also would not be allowed to own real estate within 150 miles.

Webb said that the need to provide employee housing has become a necessity in Teton County.

“I don’t want to be a landlord and didn’t want to be a land developer. I’m a utility guy and didn’t want to develop property,” he said. “But we’ve all been forced into these kind of situations.”

A recent Teton County housing assessment estimated a current shortage of about 5,300 housing units in the region, forcing commuters to drive from 10,750 to 17,500 miles a year to get to jobs within the town and county.

LVE board member and Wyoming Senate President Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, said the housing situation has become untenable both in Jackson and Star Valley, forcing employers to step in more often with housing assistance.

“Everything has become unaffordable,” he said. “This problem is not going to go away, so we wanted to step in and try to provide a solution.”

Working With Restrictions

Among other conditions for approval, LVE agreed to work with the Wyoming Department of Transportation to extend a fence to direct elk and other animals to a nearby underpass rather than encourage the animals to cross a busy road near the development.

Commissioners denied a request from LVE to increase the size of four of the lots for homes, noting the utility in 2020 agreed to 12,000 sq. foot lot sizes when the county approved a rezoning request that would allow the project to proceed.

Expanding the maximum lot sizes wasn’t an option at this point in the process, according to Keith Gingery, chief deputy county attorney, because the county’s land use regulations (LDRs) doesn’t allow for zoning amendments.

“This is why we don’t do conditional zoning,” Gingery said during the meeting. “Just so everybody understands because now the applicant is essentially changing their mind, and so now we have something different in front of us. And so that’s why we never, we always say ‘nope,’ the county doesn’t do conditional zoning.”

LVE is willing to work with the lot sizes, Bill Collins, president of Collins Planning Associates and consultant on the project, told Cowboy State Daily Wednesday.

“We will have to live with it and make it work,” he said.

Pushback From Neighbors

Several residents of the neighboring Little Horsethief Canyon development voiced their objections to commissioners about housing density, obstruction to wildlife migration, affordability and fears over who might be purchasing the units.

Some felt that the Co-Op failed to tell them that not all of the residents in the LVE units will be company employees.

“There are a lot of unknown to me and it’s misleading to be called Lower Valley workforce when it is in no way intended initially to be,” Little Horsethief Canyon resident Wendy Meyring told commissioners. “…The affordability question comes into play. Lower Valley Energy may be able to subsidize in some form, but how are these other entities going to handle that?”

Other neighbors expressed concern about the impact on wildlife and how the additional homes might affect traffic and overall quality of life.

Webb was forthright in his admission that the company never intended the new development to be only for LVE workers. He said the utility did not want to make employees feel like they are living in a “company town.”

To this end, he and his board have been in talks with other local agencies, including Game and Fish, Wyoming Department of Transportation and the town of Jackson, to also offer this housing for their employees.

As for concerns about affordability and whether employees would be granted the option to purchase the units, Webb said the utility is still working out the specifics. Likely, the Co-Op will offer subsidies and incentives based on years of service, along with some kind of path to ownership, though nothing at this point is set in stone.

He also noted that the properties would be built slowly over time.

Next Steps

Collins had no idea when the final plan would be ready to present to commissioners, which is the next step in the process.

“We are somewhat at the mercy of some very busy individuals,” Collins said, noting the limited availability of civil engineers and surveyor required to map out the water, sewer and roads plans.

Collins applauded the commissioners and process in general, which began in October 2019. Costs of the project so far have exceeded $75,000.

“It’s moved through the process in routine fashion,” Collins said. “The county commissioners are very supportive. They are happy to see a private company stepping forward on their own initiative and own dime.”

Dockstadter agreed that it has been a meticulous process but is moving smoothly.

“Those people in Teton County run a tight ship,” Dockstadter said, “and if it’s not exactly right, it will get tossed out.”

Right now, apart from providing the second-lowest residential electric rates of all cooperatives in the nation, the Co-Op is focused on getting ahead of the housing crunch.

“Housing is our priority right now,” Tanabe said.

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Jackson Housing Crisis: Developer Battles Local Government For Worker Housing

in Teton County/News
20059

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

A project aimed at providing housing for Teton County’s workers was given a second shot at life on Monday when county commissioners voted to continue their discussion on the issue until September.

The vote Monday came less than a week after commissioners voted against a conditional use permit needed to turn a former assisted living facility into multi-family housing.

But commissioners voted 3-1 Monday to allow for a reconsideration of the project to provide homes for up to 132 workers on Sept. 20, leaving some to question the delay amid a looming workforce housing crisis.

The housing project proposed by the Darwiche family and Stage Stop, Inc. is to repurpose the 57 existing units at the former Legacy Lodge assisted living facility in the Rafter J development, south of Jackson, into deed-restricted workforce housing.

Commissioners on May 17 rejected, by a 2-2 vote, a conditional use permit (CUP) that would allow the project to move forward.

Commissioners voting against the project said they were concerned with the size and number of units, parking concerns and the lack of a cap on rents. 

When bringing the issue back up for consideration, Commissioner Vice Chair Luther Propst said he hoped the parties involved would use the extra time to draw up conditions for the project’s future that would address all concerns.

“I would love to see a process over the next four months in which as a community we strive to develop a suite of proposed conditions that make an exemplary example of deed-restricted housing for our community,” he said. 

Concerns voiced by commissioners echoed some of those expressed by some residents of Rafter J, who have threatened to take legal action should the housing project win county approval.

The project had support from both the Teton County Planning Commission and Teton County Commissioners, who voted earlier in May to allow a change in the area’s “planned use development” to allow the building’s use for rental apartments.

Plans call for the Legacy Lodge to become a mixture of mostly one-bedroom, two-bedroom and studio apartments which would be upgraded with full kitchens and bike parking.

Deed restrictions would require residents to work full-time for a local business or earn 75% of their income locally. Residents would also be required to sign six-month rental agreements and not own real estate within 150 miles. The rental agreements would also specify that tenants could not leave the units vacant for two months or longer.

As part of the standard deed restriction agreement, there would be no cap on rental rates, which would be listed at market value. Employers could offer rental subsidies to employees.

Rental rates in Jackson can range from more than $2,000 a month for a studio apartment to $3,667 per month for three-bedroom units.

The Darwiche family, which owns Hotel Jackson as well as three other downtown retail businesses, purchased Legacy Lodge last year with the intent of creating workforce housing, noting the difficulties that area businesses have in attracting and retaining employees given the current housing shortage.

When Commissioner Mark Newcomb and Propst voted against the plan initially both said they would like to see a smaller number of larger units rented by year-round by long-term tenants as opposed to seasonal employees. They also said they would like to see a better parking and public transportation plan as well as the possibility that some of the apartments could be set back for county employees.

Propst would also like to see a portion of the apartment restricted based on income, while Newcomb would like to explore options for continuing to use the building as an assisted living facility.

Sadek Darwiche, who is spearheading the project, pointed to a 2022 Teton County housing assessment that estimated a current shortage of about 5,300 housing units in the region, forcing commuters to drive from 10,750 to 17,500 miles a year to get to jobs within the town and county.

The housing scarcity and soaring costs prompted his family to bring the project forward, Darwiche said, based on conversations within his family and other local business owners who are hemorrhaging employees and having a hard time staying afloat.

Some had criticized the proposal, saying Darwiche only proposed it to house his own employees. But Darwiche said his family already provides housing for its employees and his plan was intended to help other local businesses who are struggling to find and retain workers, with several businesses verbally agreeing to leases should the project be successful.

By initially voting against the conditional use permit, commissioners sent the project back to square one and told developers to submit their ideas again in 11 months.

Chris Neubecker, Teton County director of planning and building services, suggested commissioners instead consider a continuation of the issue to pause the project and allow for the examination of seven conditions recommended for the permit change by the Planning Commission as well as other ideas.

Thus far, the family has put a year of time and an undisclosed amount of resources into the process in discussions with local residents, the planning commission and several meetings and studies associated with the project, Darwiche said.

On Monday, Propst moved to reconsider the CUP request on Sept. 20, according to Chalice Weichman, Teton County deputy administrative clerk, with the understanding that Darwiche use the time to make an effort to resolve issues with the neighbors and to further mitigate impacts of the permit.

The motion passed by a 3-1 vote, with Newcomb voting no.

Commissioner Natalia Macker is scheduled to return from maternity leave on July 5, according to Alyssa Watkins, administrator for the commission, so in theory, will be present to vote on the project in September.

Why Wait?

Though Darwiche said he appreciated the continuation, he questioned the timing given that if the project was allowed to proceed, he could easily have tenants living in there by August, if not earlier.

“I think what we’re going to do is try to work with them in good faith,” Darwiche said Monday, “but we’re not going to do this forever.”

The items and conditions brought forth by the planning commission and commissioners could be addressed much more quickly, he said, noting that he’s not sure how four months is going to make a difference.

“Four months is a long time for those living in their cars or camping out in tents, and we could be using this facility for housing sooner,” he said. “That’s the difficult part for us. Why not sit down and have those conversations now? Why wait when we are in the middle of a housing crisis?”

Pushback from the HOA & Residents

Even if the CUP is granted in September, Darwiche still has another battle ahead.

The Legacy Lodge project has received pushback from the Rafter J Ranch Homeowners Association (HOA) and a number of the roughly 1,600 residents who inhabit the 490 homes in the subdivision who said they objected to the Darwiche family circumventing the subdivision’s development process.

Although the Legacy Lodge is not part of the HOA, it is nonetheless part of the subdivision with a couple other commercial buildings and subject to the residential covenants, conditions and restrictions (CCRs) that can only be approved with a majority vote by the residents.

Dozens of letters to commissioners expressed concern about the impact of the apartments on the character of the community, parking and traffic issues within the community that would result in “an asphalt jungle” and a general degradation of lifestyle.

Others yet said they would like to see the lodge continue to be used as an assisted living facility, a notion that was supported by Newcomb and which drew laughs from the Darwiche contingent when it was brought up.

However, despite the apprehension of some, many other residents and local business owners said they recognized the need for workforce housing and thought the Darwiche offer was too good to pass up.

“Denying folks from different socioeconomic backgrounds the chance to experience housing security because of concerns that they might bring ‘more noise’ or ‘increased traffic’ puts theoretical possibilities ahead of lived realities which, to me, is unbelievably inhumane,” 8-year Rafter J resident Ariel Kazunas wrote.

Darwiche said that the project’s proponents held a handful of meetings with Rafter J homeowners to answer questions and address concerns, primarily with regard to traffic and water. The backers hired firms to study the impacts of the housing project that came back showing that the increase in traffic and water usage would be negligible from the building’s former use.

He added that backers had every intention of working with the HOA to meet their CCRs but first wanted to get through the public process of obtaining sign-off from the county to see if the project passed public scrutiny before turning their attention to working on private matters with the HOA.

These are two separate processes, and Darwiche said that the understanding that he had with the HOA board is that they would first tackle the public component with county commissioners before meeting privately to hash out additional conditions and concerns.

The family respects the residents’ concerns, Darwiche said, with the exception of “nonsense stuff” like taxi drivers smoking in the parking lot after their shifts. In his estimation, the project’s backers had fruitful conversations both with the HOA and residents and were taking their concerns seriously and were willing to work with them.

“They had a few vocal critics who let them wag the dog,” he said.

Looming Lawsuits

The chief source of complaints against the project was a perceived failure of Darwiche to follow the proper process for winning approval before seeking approval from the county.

An unsigned letter sent to Rafter J neighbors stated that Stage Stop had ignored the sequence of steps laid out in the Rafter J Master Plan that require a proposed developer to have resident approval for any proposed zoning change before submitting the proposal publicly to the Teton County Commission.

The letter also expressed concerns that had the zoning change been approved, developers would be able to increase the building size and occupancy and expand parking, likely leading to increased traffic, congestion and accidents in the area. The population growth would also mean increased use of the trail system as well as congestion on paved pathways and open spaces.

“The Rafter J HOA will not manage the facility and will have limited authority to enforce nuisance behavior,” the unsigned letter went on to state. “Homeowners could see a substantial increase in noise, late-night activity, and even crime.”

The letter also reminded residents that they are part of the Jackson Hole workforce and shouldn’t “be shamed into supporting unacceptable density and development” in their neighborhood.

Rich Bloom, a volunteer consultant who was called in to help advise the residents, echoed these sentiments and said that many other businesses with similar proposals had pulled out of the project once denied by the HOA and homeowners on Rafter J land.

It’s a matter of following the rules and process, he said, and the Darwiches did not.

Because Legacy Lodge proponents circumvented the process, Bloom said it put the company at odds with the HOA. Instead, the business owners went directly to the county for a planned unit development (PUD) approval, which the county granted.

“They poisoned the relationship because they had meetings with homeowners and did what they said they wouldn’t do,” Bloom said. “CCRs are being blown off and the government is overreaching and interfering.”

Currently, the Rafter J Ranch HOA is planning to challenge in court the zoning decision that allowed planning on the project to begin and has also threatened to file a breach of contract complaint and seek an injunction against Stage Stop should the commission approve the CUP request.

Darwiche disputed claims that Stage Stop was attempting to circumvent the HOA, and reiterated that it has been communicating with the HOA and had an understanding about returning to negotiations once and if a CUP was granted.

The pending lawsuits would have no bearing on the future of the project as far as the county is concerned.

“I am not aware of any language in the Land Development Regulations that prevent the applicant from either reapplying or asking for a continuance in the face of impending legal action,” Neubecker said in an email Friday.

Question of Character

All parties agree that workforce housing is a problem, though they appear at loggerheads on how to solve it.

Bloom said he objects to residents of the subdivision being accused of taking a “Not In My Back Yard” or “NIMBY” position on providing new housing for workers.

He added he would like to see the county come up with a cohesive plan that it sticks to when considering all housing projects. That way, those buying property would have reasonable expectations of what will or will not be built next to their land, rather than having the county approve projects on a piecemeal or case-by-case basis.

“The most destructive thing we have is project-by-project results,” he said. “It pits the community against each other and it’s terrible.”

For his part, Darwiche reiterated his disbelief that the county would shoot down a ready-made project for workforce housing that would not have cost the taxpayers a dime. He questioned Bloom’s desire to “create a chasm” where one doesn’t exist.

“He’s trying to make us out to be the bad guys,” Darwiche said. “I actually think that’s a divisive tactic, and one that doesn’t address the housing problem. We are asking to use existing infrastructure to provide housing, and I wish that we could come together as a community to try to solve the problem instead of tearing people apart.”

Darwiche said he hates to think what might happen when more businesses are forced to close down or sell out to large corporations because they no longer can afford to keep their doors open.

He grew up in this town, he said, and his father opened his first take-out restaurant in downtown Jackson in 1981, where he recalled running around the boardwalks as a child.

“Jackson is a collection of small, unique businesses,” he said. “If that goes away, will it still be Jackson?”

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Jackson Hole Airport Recycling 90% Of Its Runway In Massive Replacement Project

in Teton County/News
19403

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Recycling cans? Sure. 

Recycling glass? Absolutely. 

Recycling an airport runway… wait, say again?

The Jackson Hole Airport’s runway is in the process of being replaced, but because of the airport’s unique location inside a national park, the project’s environmental impact is at the top of mind for managers.

Which explains why 90% of the existing material being removed is being re-used rather than hauled off and discarded.

“We are, as you may know, the only commercial service airport fully located inside of a national park,” said Meg Jenkins, the communications manager and public information officer for the Jackson Hole Airport. “So we really try and be good stewards of our space and really considerate of any impacts we’re having on our surrounding ecosystem.”

Jenkins told Cowboy State Daily that this routine project has been anticipated for almost a decade and the staff at the airport has been preparing for the project for the last six or seven years.

“Airport runways are a lot like highways,” she said. “They only have a certain life expectancy, so to stay up to par and keep our safety measures where the (Federal Aviation Administration) likes to see them, typically, runways are replaced anywhere from every 40 to 70 years, depending on where they’re at and what they’re made out of.” 

While runway replacements may be routine airport maintenance, there are several unique aspects to the work at Jackson Hole Airport.



Minimizing Environmental Impact

Jim Elwood, the airport’s manager, told Cowboy State Daily that project managers are focusing on making sure the airport’s environmental impact is as small as can be reasonably managed.

“Every decision that is made is focused on recognizing and respecting that we are the only commercial air service within a national park, and the very special place that is this Yellowstone ecosystem,” Elwood said. “So those things are incredibly valuable to the airport board, and to the staff that work here, that we do things to a high level.”

One of those environmentally conscious decisions, according to Jenkins, was to use the material being torn up from the existing runway to create the new one, saving thousands of dollars in materials – and in fuel.

“Right now, they are milling the old runway,” she said. “They’re estimating reusing 90% of those runway millings back into the new runway, and that part is estimated to keep about 8,500 trucks off our local roadways, and saving 187,000 gallons of fuel.”

Jenkins said so far, crews have already screened and crushed about 20,000 cubic yards of native materials that they have excavated on-site to use as sub-base for the new runway. By not having to truck that material to the airport, the crews kept 1,300 to 2,000 trucks off the community roadways.



State-Of-The-Art Drainage

Another project element intended to reduce the airport’s environmental impact is a state-of-the-art drainage system that will capture all the surface water from the runway, keeping chemicals from leeching into the ground.

“Streets, roadways, runways have a lot of different additives that come off of airplanes that aren’t great to go back into the ground,” Jenkins said. “So if we can capture all that and funnel it through our storm system that we put in just a couple of years ago, it gets filtered naturally through different layers of soils, and actually bubbles back up as almost pure drinking water.”

“This runway, to my knowledge, will be the most environmentally respectful runway with those drain systems and filtration of any runway that I’m aware of in the United States,” Elwood said.

The project, which began in mid-April, is expected to take 78 days to complete, an inconvenience to the community that is not far from the minds of project managers, Jenkins said.

“It’s a very big deal to our community and our locals to not have their service right now,” she said. “Fortunately, for Jackson, we typically get really busy starting the Fourth of July. So we tried to be really thoughtful in the process of when we wanted to do this closure, to have the least amount of impact to travelers and our local folks. And so we did choose the 78 days to be ready and operational for our busy Fourth of July kickoff to our summer tourism season.”

Tourism Impact

However, Jackson’s loss is a short-term gain for surrounding airports. Yellowstone Regional Airport Manager Aaron Buck told Cowboy State Daily that Cody will add at least one United Airlines flight per day during the Jackson closure – and Jenkins said other airports in the region will take some of the overflow as well.

“Some of the airlines have added additional service to Idaho Falls,” she said. “So a lot of the surrounding airports, as you can imagine – Bozeman, Cody – have all been in touch with us and prepared themselves for a little additional influx of passengers due to our closure.” 

Jenkins added that because of the lease the airport has with the U.S. Department of the Interior, the scope of the project is limited to replacing the existing runway, not extending or widening it in any way.

“Because of our location inside Grand Teton National Park, we have some commitments to our lease, we cannot be lengthening or extending this runway without their approval. So we are as big as we will ever be here at the Jackson airport.”

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Teton County Property Taxes Soar As Property Values Climb Out Of Control

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

This is not the Jackson of Greg Prugh’s youth. 

Driving slowly through a congested downtown neighborhood full of three-story modern, cube-like houses with big windows and decks, Prugh ticked off price tags for the properties that had recently sold — $5 million, $8 million and $10 million listing prices are now the norm.

Finding a house – or condo, for that matter – under $1 million is pretty much unheard of at this point, Prugh said.

As a former developer and current founder and owner of Prugh Real Estate, he’s watched real estate prices double in the past two years as increasing numbers of out-of-state buyers snatch up high-cost properties, siphoning off supply while demand continues to rise.

“Two years ago, everything went crazy.” he said. “Values doubled and really started ripping. Now, we’ve reached a tipping point.”

The soaring cost of houses in Teton County has led to more than just a housing shortage that has caused many to sell their homes or move to neighboring communities more than an hour away.

Record-High Property Taxes

The rising values have also led to record-high property taxes, as evidenced by the tax notices sent out just sent out last week. 

Around 60% of Teton County residents saw property taxes spike by upwards of 30% to 50%. The remaining 40% saw even larger increases of 50% or higher.

“This is by far the biggest increase I’ve seen in the five years since I’ve been in office,” Teton County Assessor Melissa “Mel” Shinkle told Cowboy State Daily Monday. “It’s been really tough on people and left them with lots of questions.”

Shinkle said she’d just finished a phone conversation with a Jackson resident calling to inquire about his bill. Residents have a 30-day period in which to dispute their bills, and Shinkle said she’s heard from many.

The gentleman she spoke with was questioning the $27,000 increase over last year’s property tax bill. Shinkle explained his house was now assessed at $9 million, which came as a big shock to him. 

In Wyoming, property taxes are applied to land and anything attached to it, such as homes, buildings and fences, all at fair market value. Currently, industrial properties are taxed based on 11.5% of their value, while residential, agricultural and other property are taxed at 9.5% of their value. Wyoming counties then have the option of charging up to 12 mills, or $12, of tax for every $1,000 in assessed value.

Currently, Teton County levies 8 of its 12 mills, a figure determined by the county commission, which will revisit the topic in August.

Residents Shocked At Increase

Given the soaring property values, some residents have been shocked to learn just how much their properties were now worth, Shinkle said, and how much they can be charged in taxes.

“Most people don’t follow the housing market. They know that prices are up, and they’ve seen the sales, but unless they are looking at what their neighbor’s property sold for, they really have no idea how much property values have gone up,” she said.

For some customers, the conversation ends there. Others, however, respond like deer in headlights as they scramble to make sense of the figure.

These are the people who keep county assessors like Shinkle from sleeping at night.

“There’s always one person who haunts you,” she said.

For her, it’s a 93-year-old woman living in a coveted area of town where values have skyrocketed. The woman, who has lived and worked here for most of her life, is on a fixed income. 

Last year, her property taxes were $9,624. This year, however, they rose by almost 100% to total $19,558.

“What does she do?” Shinkle asked. “For people on fixed incomes, this is really hard on them.”

Legislative Action

Teton and other counties are in a real bind to offer solutions for these people, Shinkle said, and to date, there aren’t a lot to offer because changes to property tax policies must be handled at the legislative level.

To that end, Rep. Mike Yin, D-Jackson, a member of the Legislature’s Revenue Committee, helped shepherd a bill through the Legislature’s recent budget session that gives counties the authority as of July 1 to create an optional property tax refund program that takes effect.

Under the program, residents who qualify based on their incomes and assets can apply for a refund of up to 50% of their prior year’s taxes.

Currently, the state has a similar property tax refund program in place, but Yin said the committee brought the bill forward in the event that the Legislature decided not to appropriate funds for the program.

The local property tax refund program will take a year to get up and running, Yin estimated.

Yin also saw a 60% increase in his property taxes on his two-bedroom condo, which has more than doubled in value since he purchased it in 2018.

“Affordability in general is an issue as we experience growth,” he said. “The cost of living is pricing many people out who can’t afford to live here (in Teton County).”

He’s heard about the issue from many of his constituents, he said, and said one measure he plans to bring forth in the Legislature in the future is the homestead exemption, which would lower taxes for property owners who live in a particular county throughout the year.

“I’m hearing a lot from people who want to do more about property taxes and housing issues in general,” he said.

Where Do Property Taxes Go?

Though it’s exhausting, Shinkle said she doesn’t mind all the calls from her constituents questioning the skyrocketing taxes.

Approximately 75% of these taxes go to schools, she said, and this year Teton County will be contributing mightily.

The remainder goes to finance city and county services.

As of today, Teton County has an approximate market value of $33,789,565,552, which would amount to about $25.7 million in property taxes.

As someone moving to Jackson from Torrington, those figures are mind-blowing for Shinkle, who has sympathy for the residents who are struggling to pay their tax bills.

The first half of taxes are due by Nov. 10, and are considered delinquent after that point unless the total figure is paid by Dec. 31. After the first half is paid, residents then have until May 10 to pay off the bill.

As for relief programs, there aren’t many available, Shinkle said. Those who meet income qualifications can apply to defer payment of the second half of up to 50% of their property taxes up to 50%, although interest will be applied to the unpaid portion.

Those who are in default of taxes might also have their homes auctioned off if they fail to pay by the deadline.

“That’s the most disappointing part,” Shinkle said. “We don’t have much property tax relief in Wyoming. It’s tough, and people are not going to be able to live here.”

Teton County Denies WYDOT Request To Build Its Own Employee Housing On State-Owned Property

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

Employee housing proposed by the Wyoming Department of Transportation to keep snow plow drivers and highway patrol troopers living in the community they serve has been rejected by Teton County’s planning commission.

WYDOT has proposed using its 14.4-acre site in the Hog Island area of Jackson to build 28 residential units to house department employees in the area, about half of whom now live in neighboring communities and are sometimes unable to reach Jackson because of bad road conditions, according to department Director Luke Reiner.

“It’s about public safety,” he said. 

But the planning commission in December unanimously rejected a department request to change the area’s zoning to allow the project to proceed.

The vote is the latest development in WYDOT’s struggle to find housing for employees in an area where available housing is very limited.

More than half of WYDOT’s 36 Jackson employees live outside of Teton County in neighboring communities, including plow drivers, maintenance workers, drivers services staff and Wyoming Highway Patrol (WHP) troopers, Reiner said.

This poses a problem, he noted, particularly in bad weather when those employees can be stranded on the wrong side of an avalanche or blocked pass, impacting their ability to provide vital services with sufficient emergency response times. 

The department started taking a serious look at the housing situation around three years ago when Reiner took over as director and saw that it was largely the WHP troopers and snowplow operators living outside the county which affected response times.

Keith Compton, a WYDOT district engineer, said in-town housing would also ease the travel burden faced by the employees, many of who live on the other side of Teton Pass from Jackson and must travel Highway 22, one of the state’s busiest two-lane highways, in an area prone to avalanches.

Recruiting has also been affected by the lack of housing Reiner said, noting the agency is down by six snowplow drivers in Teton County.

Offering housing would help in recruiting and filling open positions, Reiner told Cowboy State Daily.

No Vacancies

For at least the last four years, Teton County rental units have been filled, according to Stacy Stoker, housing manager for Jackson/Teton County Affordable Housing, with more than 1,000 applicants waiting to move into units as they become available.

“It’s just next to impossible for anyone to find anything to rent,” she said.

Rentals, when they do become available, are exorbitantly expensive, with studio apartments going for more than $2,000 a month and three-bedroom units renting for upwards of $3,667 monthly. The costs of these units have increased by 137% since 2008, according to a recent data rental report by the housing department. 

Buying property is equally prohibitive, Stoker said, with the average price of a condo running around $1 million and $3 million for a single-family home. 

Given the skyrocketing cost of real estate and lack of availability in Jackson, Reiner said that WYDOT decided building on its own property seemed like the best solution.

Building employee housing on government-owned land is not unprecedented in the region. Teton County Weed and Pest provides on-site housing at their facility in the area.  

“Not Appropriate For The Neighborhood”

But planning commission members said they could not support the change in zoning for WYDOT’s land because the entire Hog Island neighborhood is currently in the process of being rezoned. Commission members felt they needed a better understanding of future plans for the entire neighborhood before making a decision on the WYDOT land, according to Chris Neubecker, director of planning and building services for Teton County.

Neubecker told Cowboy State Daily that the commission also had concerns about traffic and water quality as well as “the size and scale of the future WYDOT housing development or other permitted uses that would be allowed by the new zoning would not be appropriate for this neighborhood.”

The planning commission plays an advisory role for the Teton County Board of Commissioners, which will make the decision on the Transportation Department’s zoning change request after a public hearing on March 1.

The rezoning request has the support of Teton County Engineer Amy Ramage, who said adequate water for the housing would not be a problem because the development could tie into a system built in 2018 for a nearby school.

“I strongly support the intent of the project to house critical workers near their place of employment,” Ramage wrote in comments to the planning commission, noting the project has the potential to improve the level of safety and service to the community.

She also said it would decrease miles traveled by WYDOT employees, which, along with providing affordable housing for service workers, is a goal of the county’s Comprehensive Plan and Integrated Transportation Plan.

The Teton County Housing Department likewise green-lighted the proposal noting the need for affordable housing for employees.

The Teton County Road and Levee Department gave its blessing as well, saying it did not see any issues with the proposed zone change as it relates to local roads. 

Teton County school Superintendent Gillian Chapman voiced concerns regarding the speed limit in front of the elementary school as well as lack of a traffic light but said that WYDOT has indicated a willingness to install appropriate signage. 

However, the project also had opposition.

In a letter responding to the proposal, area resident Rosi De Haan said that adding 28 units would completely change the neighborhood.

She pointed to complaints about the way dirt piles and gravel are stored on the property and said the addition of new residents to the neighborhood would have a negative impact.

“This massive addition of people would also have a negative impact on our precious aquifer and there is an issue about how such a complex would take care of sewage,” she wrote.

In fact, WYDOT is not required to obtain the county’s permission to build the housing units on its own property.

But Reiner said in the interest of maintaining good partnerships with the communities it serves, the department is going through the application process as was suggested by the county. The fees to apply cost WYDOT $1,629.

“We work really hard to be partners with our local entities, counties, municipalities,” he said, “so that’s why we said, ‘yeah, we’ll work through the process.”

Funding

The WYDOT employee housing project is expected to cost $16.5 million and will be built in phases as funding allows.

The agency is hopeful some funding for the project will come from the recently passed Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – formerly known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The 28 proposed units would be a mix of single- and multi-family two-story units to be built adjacent  to the 49,603-square foot WYDOT facility that houses the driver’s licenses services, vehicle storage and a maintenance shop. 

The agency has not yet determined whether the employee housing would be free to the employees as part of the employment package.

“Typically, it is provided at no cost to the employee in order to encourage recruitment and retention in areas with housing challenges, usually in remote locations,” said Doug McGee, a department spokesman. “However, with this being very early in the process, those details have not been developed.”

Reiner refrained to comment on whether the agency will move forward with plans to build should the board of county commissioners reject the zone change. He reiterated his desire to work with the community and leaders to follow the process.

“If there’s an eventual rejection,” he said, “then one has to weigh options.”

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Teton County Sets Up Website To Report People Who Are Violating Mask Mandates

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Two members of the Teton County Commission on Tuesday signaled concern when hearing about a new webpage that enables residents to report on mask violations in Jackson and surrounding areas.

The sheriff of Teton County, however, said there is no enforcement behind it and it was built to alleviate the high numbers of phone calls for and against the mark mandate that come into county dispatch.

At Tuesday’s county commission meeting, Commissioners Greg Epstein and Mark Barron both expressed apprehension that a page was built without their knowledge on the county’s COVID website that allows citizens to file a report against individuals or businesses who are not abiding by the Teton County mask mandate.

“I have a lot of problems with this. I think it’s a complete overreach of our government,” Epstein said at the meeting.

“Secondly, I don’t even know who authorized it.  It wasn’t in the [mask] order,” he said. “I think that we need to have a cease and desist on it immediately. There’s already a lot of mistrust in our community and in the country, and I think this is only exacerbating that.”

Commissioner Barron was quick to agree noting that the new webpage was a surprise to him as well.

“I too am very troubled by this,” Barron said. “We’ve got a community that’s worked really hard trying to stamp out COVID. And I don’t see this as a positive step forward. And I am curious where this came from and how this came to be I did not see this in the order.”

Keith Gingery, Chief Deputy Attorney for Teton County, explained the webform was newly created because the last time there was a mask mandate individuals wanting to report violations would call the Teton County Sheriff’s department.

“People were calling dispatch and they were tying up the line,” Gingery said. “The idea was, and I don’t know all the details, was so people weren’t calling dispatch for this.”

Later in the meeting, Sheriff Carr concurred that the webform was set-up with his knowledge through Public Health to alleviate phone calls that dispatch was receiving.

“Dispatch just doesn’t need to get every phone call from somebody reporting that so and so is not wearing a mask in Albertsons,” Carr said.  “That just overwhelms our dispatch center in a real big hurry.”

Epstein was not satisfied with the explanation.

“I still feel like this is creating an environment of mistrust within our community, more divnisioning, more factioning,” he said.  “We’re pitting people against law enforcement unnecessarily and I’m worried.”

Carr said he was “having a hard time following [Epstein’s] logic” but acknowledged that masks are a “very polarizing issue.”

“So I just don’t want to cut off the public’s ability if they feel it necessary to report,” he said. “I just don’t want those phone calls clogging up our dispatch center.”

On Wednesday, Carr told Cowboy State Daily that the site was just a “management tool” with no enforcement behind it.

“We’re not trying to create anything for neighbors to report neighbors,” he said. “We’re not going to enforce it. What we’ve done in the past is if Public Health tells us there are 25 complaints at a location, we might go there and talk to the owners. But we’re not going to enforce it.”

“We’re not encouraging people to use it. But there are people in our community — like any community — who want to vent whether it be for the masks or against the masks,” he said. “This is a tool for them to vent.”

Commissioner Barron, on Wednesday, told Cowboy State Daily he was satisfied with Carr’s explanation.

“I know there is no law enforcement with this and I’m fine with that,” Barron said. “If people feel like they have an ear when they email in, if public health has time to do this, then I’m fine with that.

“But the expectation that a police officer or a deputy sheriff is going to show up, people have to let that go. It’s not going to happen,” he said.

The commission agreed to table the issue until they could have conversations with the public health department.

Calls to the Teton County public health department have yet to be returned.

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Jackson Food/Hospitality Workers Live in Forest Because They Can’t Afford Rent in Richest County in US

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Jackson is home to some of the world’s wealthiest individuals — and to many of the working poor who meet their needs.

The disparate economics of the working class vs. homeowners in Teton County is among the most extreme in the nation and has created housing situation where people who want to work in Jackson can’t afford to live there. 

According to a report released last month by the Economic Innovation Group, Teton County has the highest per capita income in the country — over $250,000. The county’s wealth is comparable to places like Manhattan, New York; San Mateo, California; and Palm Beach, California — but for the area’s labor force, it’s a different story.

Although the latest data isn’t available, last fall the county’s food service and hospitality workers earned an average of $15.64 an hour. 

Sharel Lund, executive director of the One22 Resource Center, said some employers are beginning to pay their workers more, but it is still not enough to let them keep up with housing market.

“I think that most employers that I’ve talked to have increased wages,” said Lund, whose organization provides assistance to those in need in the county. “But, you know, nobody really knows if the wage increase is on par with the housing increase, it’s pretty tough to keep up with that.”

Lund said many people move to Jackson without understanding that although jobs are available, affordable housing is not.

“It’s hard to believe the scarcity of housing that actually exists,” she said. “They see a dozen pages of ‘help wanted’ ads and are  like, ‘Sweet, I’m going there.’ But the lack of housing here is really quite literally unbelievable.”

An ad in the local newspaper earlier this summer listed one available rental in nearby Wilson as a “5br/4ba newly remodeled house” that could be had for $20,000 a month.

This type of price is a little steep for rural Wyoming.

According to the Jackson/Teton County Housing Authority, for the third quarter of 2021, vacancy rates remain at 0% — meaning there simply are no homes people to move into. 

Rental rates for studio units went up about 6% this year to around $1,825 per month. A three-bedroom apartment in Jackson averages around $3,700 per month, according to the most recent data.

Camping As Housing

So what are workers to do? Well, many go camping — for the whole summer.

Bridger-Teton National Forest officials estimate that between 300 and 500 people are living in the nearby forest during the summer season. Chris Moll, director of the Hirschfield Center for Children in Jackson, said families camping in the forest because they don’t have a place to live has been occurring for decades.

“I’ve lived here for 30 years, and that’s been going on for as long as I can remember,” Moll said. “It’s always been an issue here… I think now, it’s just way worse than it’s ever been because of the divide between the haves and the have-nots here.”

Moll said in the winter, when the weather turns cold, some hotels in the area will lower their rates to allow families an affordable roof over their heads.

“So during the school year, when things start getting cold, some of the lower end hotels will open up monthly rates,” he said. “And we’ll see, you know, a family of four or five living in a hotel room.”

Lund said her organization can only do so much.

“A couple of years ago, rent assistance really made a difference for folks, helped bridge the gap, if they were just getting started, or maybe they had a seasonal layoff or something like that,” she said. “What we’re finding now is that housing just isn’t available at any cost. I mean, the inventory is just simply not there.”

She explained that with the housing market as hot as it is, some properties are being sold for a large profit, but the tenants who may inhabit those homes are then displaced.

“A lot of folks who have rental housing, are needing to reclaim that rental housing from their open market rental for their own employees,” she said. “So it’s a shift, you know, so they’re housing someone else. But that’s displacing the person that’s in it.”

To be fair, Lund said, there is a push to build more housing in Teton County right now.

“There is a lot of housing coming online, there’s a lot being built – but it’s just not fast enough, and it’s not of enough quantity, and it’s still expensive.” 

Hughes Charitable Foundation

One organization which stepped up this summer is the Hughes Charitable Foundation which donated $10 million for affordable housing in July.

The $10 million dollar gift is the single largest private donation toward affordable housing in the history of Teton County.

The $10 million gift is directed toward housing the workers at a diversity of human service-focused organizations in Jackson Hole: Senior Center of Jackson Hole, Community Entry Services, Community Safety Network, Curran-Seely Foundation, One22, Teton Literacy Center, Children’s Learning Center, Climb Wyoming, Jackson Hole Community Counseling, Teton Youth and Family Services, Teton County Sheriff’s Office, Jackson Police Department, and Jackson Hole Fire/EMS.

“We wanted to do something meaningful to support our community’s safety net workers. They are the unseen heroes of our community, and we want to help ensure that they can continue to meet our community’s needs in perpetuity,” said Wayne and Molly Hughes of the Hughes Charitable Foundation.

“We wanted to do something meaningful to support our community’s safety net workers. They are the unseen heroes of our community, and we want to help ensure that they can continue to meet our community’s needs in perpetuity.”

This gift will enable the Housing Trust to accelerate its next project and break ground in the summer of 2022. By 2023, 10 essential human service organizations and three public service entities will have the opportunity to offer stable, secure housing to key employees.  

‘It’s like we’re constantly slapped down, so I feel like this gift was so uplifting,’ said Sarah Cavallaro, executive director of Teton Youth and Family Services. ‘It’s like someone sees what we’re doing.'”

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