Munger Mountain workforce housing proposal will get another look in May

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – The clock ran out on town councilmembers and county commissioners before they had a chance to weigh in on a proposed workforce housing development slated for Hog Island.

The development (Munger Mountain Residential) was first brought forward by Larry Huhn (with Y2 Consultants) last November when the longtime local expressed a desire to build a 100% workforce housing project on the 84-acre Robertson property adjacent to Munger Mountain Elementary School (MMES) off S. Highway 89.

In order to get the density he’s looking for, Huhn is seeking an amendment to the 2012 Comp Plan to allow for a special subarea called 7.3 to be inserted into Subarea 7.2 (Hog Island Home Business).

This part of Hog Island currently has about 50 residential units located in two developments. The average lot size there is 1.9 acres. The area is buffered by 120 acres of agricultural land and the Munger Mountain hillside. The proposed subarea also includes WYDOT and Weed & Pest facilities as well as Munger Mountain Elementary School (MMES), which opened in September.

Staff would be in agreement, stating, “The current vision for Hog Island is clear—single family residences with industrial home businesses that are denser than surrounding rural subareas, but less dense than other residential complete neighborhood subareas.”

For and against

Proponents of the development cite first and foremost the need for affordable housing options in the valley. With the joint affordable housing department currently focused on providing rental inventory—some 422 units are in the one-year pipeline—Munger Mountain Residential (MMR) could provide some 125 to 200 ownership units.

Backers of the development also argue the infrastructure is there and ready to support growth.

Scott Pierson

Former county commissioner Hank Phibbs told electeds in an email: “The Hog Island property adjacent to the new Munger Mountain School is going to be developed. The extension of the sewer line to the new school has made that a certainty.”

Y2’s Scott Pierson made note of beefed up infrastructure as well, pointing out the extension of the town/county sewer system to link up with MMES, as well as the widening of US89 to four lanes.

“This area has changed. It’s changed a lot,” Pierson argued at Monday’s JIM, pointing out the 2012 Comp Plan reflects outdated community values.

But has it changed enough? Not according to town/county staff who are recommending denial of the Comp Plan amendment.

Phil Wilson

“Have existing conditions changed enough? Staff would say no,” Tyler Sinclair told councilmembers and commissioners. “And is Hog Island the right place for affordable housing? Not at this time.”

The county planning commission also recommended denial of the Comp Plan amendment sought by the applicant on a 1-3 vote.

Public comment has been overwhelmingly in favor of workforce housing in Hog Island, unless you live there. Phil Wilson lives smack in the middle of the controversy.

“We like our agricultural and rural character. The neighbors don’t want this. We moved out into the country [for a reason]. We don’t want the city to come to us,” Wilson said.

But business owners and employers especially have been handicapped by a shortage of employees due to housing issues. Several have voiced their support, including Jeff Rice (Jackson Whole Grocer) and Wes Gardner (Teton Toys).

What’s next?

Whether or not town and county officials elect to override staff and volunteer board recommendations will have to wait. Monday’s JIM ran up against time constraints so any decision has now been delayed until the next scheduled joint meeting on May 6. A special JIM might be scheduled before that.

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