THE BUZZ: Fried and Retried

By on October 18, 2016

District 2 land regs are repackaged sans short-term rentals after referendum repeal.

To the (ostensible) delight of citizens who voted ‘no’ in the special September 20 referendum election, town council removed the potential for short-term rentals in the downtown’s core during its Monday meeting.

To the (ostensible) delight of citizens who voted ‘no’ in the special September 20 referendum election, town council removed the potential for short-term rentals in the downtown’s core during its Monday meeting.

JACKSON HOLE, WY – The town council voted 4-1 Monday to move forward with new land development regulations for District 2 of Jackson’s downtown core by stripping out what officials felt was the most contentious aspect of the ordinances repealed by a referendum vote on September 20. Councilors debated the issue at a special afternoon workshop and eventually ratified their decision late Monday night at their regular meeting. Councilman Don Frank was the sole dissenting voice.

Three options were presented by town planning staff. They included a return to previous regs (Option 1), consideration of readopted regulations with a removal of the 100,000 square feet of short-term rental workforce housing incentive (Option 2), or a complete overhaul of the district’s LDRs (Option 3).

Hailey Morton Levinson said Option 2 presented the most practical solution given that the council had worked on the district regulations for many years.

“I think there are a lot of good things in the ordinances that should be moved forward, and removing this one item that seems to be the sticking point is how to move that forward in my mind,” Morton Levinson said.

Jim Stanford held to his pledge that, win or lose with the referendum vote, he would try to “bring the process to an expedient close.” He said he too has some reservations about building height, setbacks, and landscaping allowances inherent in the D2 LDRs, but in the spirit of compromise he was still committed to conceding some of these personal views in order to get something on the books.

“We’ve moved to a stage now where I think the majority of the public would be comfortable if we simply removed the short-term rental provision,” Stanford said.

Bob Lenz wasn’t sure short-term rentals were the only stumbling block in the repealed ordinances. He was adamant, however, that District 2 regulations should be passed by the end of the year. “It’s unfair to drop it into the middle of a new council,” he said. Lenz leaned toward Option 3 at the afternoon session but ultimately voted with the majority to simply strip out the short-term rental bonus.

Don Frank held firm to his belief that a total overhaul (Option 3) was in order; since the referendum struck down ordinances in their entirety, he wanted to go back to the drawing board with the LDRs. The councilman also took the opportunity to again delve into the vote that repealed the ordinances the council was tasked to replace.

“I did meet with some folks about this petition last week. That was not a secret meeting, but it sure was a meeting with a lobbying group,” Frank said. “How many of the signers and how many of the voters have actually followed these proceedings, have read the ordinances and understand them in context? I don’t know how you can say that a minority 189 voters are actually an impartial and well-informed electorate? I’d argue that they were provoked emotionally to be afraid of something they didn’t understand.”

Mayor Sara Flitner stressed that protecting neighborhoods and community character were the highest priority for town leaders.

“I lean toward Option 2 in the spirit of the values I have talked about for 20 months—collaboration, compromise—and the fact that not a single one of us has a crystal ball. We can argue all day long about what people think, whether or not those who voted were fully informed. The fact is we elect people to serve the public interest, to take public comment and listen respectfully, and to make decisions we hope are in the best interests of the majority.”

The public speaks out

Brenda Wiley asked the council to consider increasing the ratio of workforce housing mitigation from 2 to 1 to something more like 3 to 1, or even 4 to 1, to ensure enough housing gets built. Currently, without the new LDRs taking effect, the mitigation rate remains at 25 percent—meaning developers must dedicate a fourth of what they intend to build to affordable housing.

Holland & Hart attorney Matt Kim-Miller, who has taken up cases recently on behalf of property owners/developers David Quinn, Jamie Mackay, and Jerry Lundquist, urged the council to get something on the books soon on behalf of the Teton Brewing Company looking to move forward with a project on East Snow King.

“Our request would be for the council to speed along adoption of the District 2 regulations as quickly as possible. Along with this client we have other clients who do have capital at the ready, do want to make investments and the delays do affect their ability to do that,” Kim-Miller said.

Armond Acri [of Save Historic JH], speaking as a town resident, recommended Option 1 to the council.

“I know that probably isn’t what you want to hear … but the short-term rentals were the obvious [objection]. My concern is there are other issues. You guys are surrounded by one crowd that is asking for higher buildings and more stuff because they have something to benefit from. I rub in a different crowd that has other concerns. In my view, what happened in the referendum is there are a significant number of people that are unhappy as a whole with the direction we went,” Acri said. “But I think we need to be aware of what made people vote the way they did and understand what it was about the regulations that they were unhappy with.”

Town council hopeful Judd Grossman also suggested town leaders take into account there may be something more than just the short-term housing that was the sticking point with the majority of voters on September 20. He referred specifically to his concern about 1,200 unrestricted units that he said would be required in order to produce 1,000 deed-restricted units. He also pressed the electeds to wait until a new council was seated next year to move forward with D2 LDRs.

“If we have a cap of 2,200 units or so that we can move into downtown, do we really want 1,200 of them to be unrestricted,” he asked.

Moment of decision

“What do you think, guys, do we want to continue these or try to get through a discussion?” Flitner asked her peers as Monday night’s meeting approached the 225-minute mark.

With little fanfare, a visibly beleaguered council voted to retry District 2 ordinances with the removal of the 100,000 square feet of short-term rental allowance. Frank was the sole dissenting vote. PJH

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