JACKSON, Wyo. — A proposal to turn Legacy Lodge, once an assisted living center, into workforce housing was approved by the Planning Commission Tuesday, March 14.

The vote was twofold: commissioners approved a conditional use permit (CUP) and a planned use development (PUD) amendment, each by a 3-2 vote.

The proposal is now in the hands of Teton County Commissioners. If they green light it, Rafter J’s HOA must also sign off to late Stage Stop, the applicant, convert Legacy Lodge into apartment units that must be occupied by members of Teton County’s workforce.

The decision followed two tense meetings, each of which lasted several hours. Neighbors in Rafter J voiced a plethora of concerns, from increased traffic to sewage capacity to parking. Several Rafter J residents also mourned the loss of the neighborhood’s assisted living facility and expressed the desire to see another in its place.

“It pains me to talk about assisted living,” Chuck Gray, a 30-year resident of Rafter J, said shakily at a Feb. 28 meeting.

“We also have a senior housing problem in this community,” Planning Commissioner Susan Lurie agreed at the March 14 meeting. “Seniors are important to the cultural memory and long-term residents. In not providing for them… the community is making a statement that even though they have contributed to the economic, cultural, and social vibrancy of this community for decades, we’re in essence saying ‘we have no place for them now.'”

The property is currently zoned “convenience commercial” specifically for the Rafter J development. The units do not have kitchens; instead, there is a commercial kitchen that was used to cook for Legacy Lodge’s residents. That, plus increased traffic, were among the biggest concerns Lurie.

“[This plan] is putting additional stress on a failing level of service as it is, with no relief in sight,” Lurie said at the March 12 meeting.

Neighbors shared Lurie’s concerns. The plan as it was presented Feb. 28 only recommend one parking spot per unit.

“The parking deficit is equal to the size of TJ Maxx,” said Joe Lovett. “My concern with the deficit is that the adjacent roadway will bear the burden, even if it is prohibited.”

Housing advocacy group Shelter JH supported the proposal online.

The tension bubbled so far as to involve lawyers from Rafter J’s HOA, who asked the landowner (Sadek Darwiche) to comply with the HOA covenants, codes and restrictions (CCRs). Still, a majority of planning commissioners concurred that workforce housing is a big enough need, and the applicants were within their rights, to send the proposal to the Board of County Commissioners.

Commissioner Kasey Mateosky said this proposal was an opportunity for the county to put its money where its mouth is and support workforce housing.

“It’s the same thing I hear all the time: ‘we need workforce housing, just don’t put it near me,'” he said. Without workforce housing, he said, Teton County has lost, and will use, valuable community members and community character.

“If our ‘brand’ is going to be to keep workforce housing here, everybody has to take a hit,” Mateosky said. “You’re going to have new neighbors. You’re going to have strangers in your neighborhood. But that’s what we are as a community.”

Commissioners voted 3-2 on both the CUP and PUD amendment.

Shannon is a Wyoming-raised writer and reporter. She just completed a master's in journalism from Boston University. Jackson shaped her into an outdoorswoman, but a love for language and the human condition compels her to write. She believes there's no story too small to tell nor adventure too small to take.