The Town Council met for a regular meeting yesterday, May 16. Photo: Nick Sulzer//Buckrail

JACKSON, Wyo. — The Jackson Town Council discussed the emergency development moratorium proposed by ShelterJH during their regular meeting yesterday Nov. 15.

Last week, housing advocacy nonprofit ShelterJH sent a letter to Mayor Morton Levinson and the Town Council, calling for an emergency,  year-long development moratorium. According to the letter, the year-long moratorium would offer the town a chance to update “its zoning standards to incentivize and regulate the production of homes that locals can afford.”

The topic was a part of the “Matters for Mayor and Council” section of the meeting. Councilmember Jessica Sell Chambers brought the issue to the Council asking for clarity in the process of what a development moratorium would look like.

At the beginning of the meeting, several community members addressed the proposed moratorium during the public comment period. Of those who spoke, opinions were split. One community member said that if a moratorium on development was considered, deed-restricted housing should also be included. Another person who spoke said that Councilmember Jessica Sell Chambers should recuse herself from the topic because she is a dues-paying member of ShelterJH. Concerns about projects already in the pipeline were also brought up by a homeowner who has been working on plans for four years. He pointed out that if a development moratorium became a reality and land development regulations changed, he might have to start from scratch.

During the council’s discussion, Sell Chambers called the word moratorium “quite triggering for a lot of people” but that the council needs to “hit the breaks.” She urged for immediate action.

Councilmember Jim Rooks spoke about the hundreds of emails the council received on the topic. “Each one [email] had heartfelt personal stories and a lot of these stories we have seen before.” 

“We need to take the time and I know I’m not going to convince anyone here but we have such a complicated and compounding issue with housing and hotel development and short-term rentals that there are feedback loops and things are rapidly going downhill,” Sell Chambers said.  

Rooks said, “moratorium should be on the list of all things being explored right now.” He said he could not support a moratorium right now citing “unintentional negative consequences for well-intentioned thoughts.”

“Personally I don’t believe a moratorium is our best chess move,” Rooks said.

Councilmember Jonathan Schechter shared a similar sentiment but did not outrightly say he was against a development moratorium.

“My concern is that if we are going to do something we need to do it properly we need to do it right we need to do it in a sophisticated fashion,” he said. “This is not one single isolated effort, it’s a complicated series of issues.”

Vice Mayor Arne Jorgensen said, “There is nothing more real than someone talking about insecure housing.” He suggested a “more refined discussion” rather than a discussion about a moratorium or not. 

“I will remind people that this budget year, between the town and county we budgeted 13 million dollars, more money than we have ever spent in housing,” Jorgensen said. Later he said, “I know it may come off as defensive when I say that we are doing things, but we are doing things. And thats a fact.”

Sell Chambers said, “I hope the answer to this question of when this conversation will be had is Dec. 6.”

Mayor Morton Levinson was absent from the meeting on Nov. 15.

Buckrail @ Lindsay

Lindsay Vallen is a Community News Reporter covering a little bit of everything; with an interest in politics, wildlife, and amplifying community voices. Originally from the east coast, Lindsay has called Wilson, Wyoming home since 2017. In her free time, she enjoys snowboarding, hiking, cooking, and completing the Jackson Hole Daily crosswords.