Earlier this summer a local restaurant manager asked me to personally thank everyone who had spoken up for housing affordable to people who work here during the Downtown (District 2) land development regulations update process. That’s because he can barely find enough staff to stay open for dinner (he’d long since given up on finding enough staff to open for lunch). A few weeks later a manager of a high-end hotel in town told me he doesn’t know what to do because he can’t find employees.
Then there’s the 40% increase in rent at Blair Place, which might just be the straw that broke our community’s back because of its impact on police and community leaders who may now have to leave the valley. Eleven-year Valley resident (and Blair Place denizen) Matt Grabowski recently explained what many of us are feeling, “It feels more and more like working class people are not welcome here anymore.”
According to the 2012 Jackson / Teton County Comprehensive Plan, “Other resort communities in the Rocky Mountains facing housing affordability issues have identified the loss of a resident workforce as the primary indicator of their lost sense of community.” This is why our community has established the shared goal of housing at least 65% of our workforce locally – we value staying a strong community.
The draft 2015 Annual Indicator Report – a Town and County document that measures our community’s progress toward our shared goals – indicates that we have already fallen below this 65% tipping point while explaining things are trending in the wrong direction; “workforce housing is not being provided in balance with the jobs that are being created,” and “the ratio of local workforce to local jobs has declined steadily over the past 10 years.”
Our community has passed the tipping point and is out of balance, way out of balance. We have too much commercial and lodging development and not nearly enough housing affordable to people who work here. Renowned urban planner Chuck Marohn recently said what is happening here in Jackson Hole – with residents such as emergency responders being priced out – will decidedly transform our home. “From a housing standpoint, Jackson Hole is well on its way to being like Vail, Colorado,” he warned.
When you’re in a hole the best thing to do is stop digging. The last thing we should do is make our housing crisis worse by dramatically increasing commercial and lodging development potential. Yet this is exactly what your Town Council and County Commissioners might do next week in response to a miscalculation of buildout numbers that are foundational to our Comprehensive Plan and how we as a community craft our land use rules.
On Tuesday, August 18 at 5:30 p.m. the Town Council and County Commission will consider whether or not to add millions of square feet of new commercial and lodging development potential across Jackson Hole at a meeting in Town Hall (150 East Pearl). When you consider that the Marriott currently under construction is only 92,000 square feet, you start to understand the impact of what this decision could mean for our community.
Join your friends and neighbors at this meeting and tell your elected representatives that Jackson Hole needs housing for our middle class, not more Marriott’s. Let them know we definitely shouldn’t make our housing problem worse through a dramatic and unnecessary expansion of commercial and lodging development potential.