Friends don’t let friends…

Friends don’t let friends…

…go to Cheyenne to undermine our local democracy

Have your friends been driving down to Cheyenne to get the state legislature to take away our local authority over land-use and development?

At the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, we believe that protecting what we love about this place – the wildlife, the wild places, and the community character – needs a strong community over the long run. We need committed people living here who will stand up for what makes Jackson Hole unique, so it doesn’t get destroyed by the endless line-up of bad ideas to turn this magical valley into short-term profits – whether oil wells, outlet malls, or massive new downtown hotels. We need a strong and diverse middle class stewarding our lands and wildlife, volunteering, and voting for elected representatives who care.

And we need to ferociously protect our local autonomy and local decision-making authority. Losing it could utterly destroy what makes our community unique.

Here’s the thing: the Wyoming legislature could take away all of our authority. For decades, the state has delegated local land-development decisions like housing requirements to local communities, understanding that each county has different resources, problems, and solutions. But that arrangement is now under threat, because a few people in our community didn’t get their way at the local level and are asking Cheyenne to override our democracy.

We believe our community deserves the right to manage our local issues like growth and housing in a way that reflects our unique challenges and resources.

The housing crisis facing our working and middle class keeps getting worse. Job growth has outpaced housing growth for years. Luckily, there are solutions, like the housing mitigation rules that require developers to provide housing for some of the workers in the new jobs they generate.

After two years of vigorous public debate, the town council and county commission updated these rules last year. They reduced the fees on residential development so it’s easier to build apartments and condos. And they increased the fees on commercial development so that new hotels, restaurants, etc, have to provide housing for more (but still not all) of their new workers.

Most of our community supported these common-sense rules.

Since the rules passed, local entrepreneurs have gotten 300 new business licenses – so clearly these rules are not stifling growth or killing small business in Jackson. What really harms small businesses and nonprofits is not being able to find or keep good employees, because good employees can’t afford decent housing.

There’s no one answer – we need all tools on the table. The private market needs to be part of the solution, so we applaud local business owners’ voluntary construction of housing for their workers, and we support zoning incentives for workforce housing. We also support public funding for housing (like the SPET measure that our community approved on the November ballot). And we absolutely need to require developers to build housing to maintain balance with the new jobs they create.

Our tools have been hard-fought and hard-won through the marketplace of ideas and local democracy. We should all object vociferously to a small group asking Cheyenne to prevent us from implementing our local solutions.

Please, talk to your friends. Let’s agree as a community to work out our local policy issues here – not in Cheyenne – and protect our local autonomy.

Learn more and get involved: www.jhalliance.org/housingbalance

Phone: (307) 733-9417
685 S. Cache St. PO Box 2728
Jackson, Wyoming 83001