County Commission Candidate Questionnaires
We released a questionnaire to all candidates. We added the bold font to their responses emphasize the most important aspects of their views. Otherwise, their responses are unedited.
We have removed answers from candidates who did not advance in the primary election. Please contact us if you’re interested in reading their responses. County Commission candidate Tom Segerstrom did not submit a response to our questionnaire.
We have set ambitious housing goals in the Comprehensive Plan, but we do not yet have enough stable funding to achieve these goals. How would you obtain permanent and dedicated revenue for safe, secure and affordable homes for our community members—especially the most vulnerable and lowest-income among us?
Brenden Cronin: People will continue to move to Teton County and build large homes, and who can blame them this place is beautiful and the tax structure of the state of Wyoming is quite favorable. I’d like to see an annual fee assessed for single family homes over 5000 square feet (not including ADU’s) in addition to existing property taxes. This exorbitance fee could be used to maintain permanent and dedicated revenue for safe, secure, and affordable homes for our less affluent community members.
Wes Gardner: Affordable housing is affordable only because it is subsidized. While some of our housing funding comes from community philanthropy, the vast majority of the housing costs are absorbed by our local governments. The following funding mechanisms have my support, especially if we tie them to income-based affordable workforce and retiree housing. RETT- I support a graduated Real Estate Transfer Tax as a means of generating a steady revenue stream for community housing. There were nearly $3B of real estate transactions last year in Teton County. Without a RETT, we continue to miss out on a valuable opportunity (just 1% of $3B is $30M). SPET Funding- I support all five housing SPET initiatives on this year’s ballot– for the hospital, the school system, the town, the county, and supporting the general fund. I would have preferred to see them combined into one $50M-$60M pool. General Fund- As SPET funding can apply to only capital costs, we must make a deeper commitment to funding the Housing Authority so that the county can keep up with capacity. If elected I will work to increase the capacity of this department.
Peter Long: Teton County is in a housing crisis. Years of kicking good opportunities down the road have exacerbated a supply shortage, pushing prices out of reach for most working families. Individuals, non-profits, and local businesses and organizations have stepped up to help address the problem, particularly to answer funding needs. Examples like Horse Creek and Northern South Park demonstrate our community’s willingness to be part of the solution – and how effective those partnerships can be. Sadly, too often our local government has sought to go it alone and has killed viable opportunities to work with stakeholders to get workforce housing in the ground. This pattern of “no” not only negates here-and-now opportunities, it also risks poisoning the well among landowners, funders, non-profits and others that must be part of the long-term solution. As Commissioner, I will work to build and strengthen partnerships with the private sector—not only to secure sustainable funding, but also to better ensure projects get completed on time and on budget. Habitat for Humanity’s involvement with the Grove is a textbook example of how those partnerships can work well. Addressing our housing crisis and ensuring hardworking families have a place in Teton County will require a whole-of-community effort. If elected, I pledge to work with stakeholders from every corner of our county to embrace opportunities to get workforce housing in the ground and ensure it benefits those who need it most.
Kasey Mateosky: We need ambitious housing goals, now is the time to focus on doing, we have planned our community into a big affordable sink hole that we may never be able to fill. We need ew ways of thinking and doing I’m that candidate for this needed change. I will push new regulations that will make the process streamlined to make the working class housing needs our top priority. Funding will need to come from multiple revenue sources. Permit and utility connection fees could be waived, Federal grants to name a few. Density bonuses to existing land owners is a great option also.
Mark Newcomb: First, I want to applaud the work of the Jackson Hole Housing Trust, Habitat for Humanity and the Jackson/Teton County Housing Department. Together, along with significant contributions from private philanthropic individuals, they are set to deliver 213 new homes by 2024 including 48 completed this past year. As for the question at hand, we should continue to consider an extra penny of sales tax (so-called “seventh penny”) that has been rejected twice by voters. Even channeling a portion of the $22 million in annual revenue from a seventh penny into housing would be a significant improvement over what’s available now from general fund tax revenues. We should continue to lobby the state legislature to pass legislation enabling Teton County to impose a real estate transfer tax if voters so choose. And we should lobby the state legislature to pass legislation enabling development agreements that allow the town and county to negotiate with developers requiring that a portion of all future sales go towards deed-restricted housing rather than a one-time housing fee on new development. We should also continue to apply for low-income housing tax credits, an effort that bore fruit recently for the housing on town property at 400 West Snow King.
Luther Propst: Permanent, dedicated funding for affordable housing is a both a noble and a challenging goal in Wyoming. While working for that goal, it is also important to focus on funding sources that are more readily available: the county commission and town council are likely to refer to the voters in November 2022 $80 million in five SPET measures for workforce and affordable housing. My top priority is to encourage voters to approve these five measures. Longer term, a county-optional real estate transfer tax is the most promising source for meaningful dedicated revenue. The challenge is that securing authority for such a dedicated source of revenue requires approval from the Wyoming legislature, which would require a diverse, state-wide coalition. Success requires looking beyond the county commission.
What is your vision for Northern South Park? What specific income levels and which types of workers (or non-workers) should be able to afford the homes, and what price point serves those community members? Do you think the current Draft Plan put us on the right path? Why or why not, and how would you change it?
Brenden Cronin: Northern South Park is an incredible gift for this community, and I’d like to thank the Gill and Lockhart families for their generosity. I feel the current plan has set us on a good path, but I’d like to see a larger percentage dedicated to deed restricted homes. My hope is that the private sector will step in and help to increase the number of deed restricted homes in NSP. I am very thankful for the plan that we now have in place and would like to commend all those who helped push this vision forward.
Wes Gardner: The only way to solve a housing problem is to build more housing. Northern South Park represents one of the last opportunities to develop significant housing in our valley. The applicant seeks valuable density bonuses. The community wants assurances in exchange. These assurances center on the assortment of designations. I would instead focus on the proposed 45-acre donation along High School Road. In order to actualize housing, we need control of the land. With that in pocket, I would negotiate the best numbers possible for the rest of the Gill parcel. Some of the shine has worn off simple workforce designations for me. I would focus any negotiation on the affordable designation (income-restricted) and would include not only workforce but also retirees. As an aside, this seems an excellent moment to engage the Lockharts in an attempt to include a donation as a potential landing site for the Fairgrounds in exchange for the valuable density bonuses they may realize. Given the current options, I would seek 80-100% of the recently added 600 units be income-restricted. This would effectively double the number of income-restricted units. Within this designation, without committing to hard numbers, I would want to see the properties distributed evenly across the AMI spectrum. Frankly, I do not think the current draft plan puts us on the right path. I would struggle to vote yes on any agreement that did not include a real estate transfer. As a housing advocate, gaining control of the asset is critical. Without control over this parcel, I fear that we will be pushing water uphill with every project.
Peter Long: Northern South Park is a remarkable opportunity for our community, especially our workforce. This is a logical place for growth, and the recently approved plan ensures that a vast majority of the housing will directly benefit our workers. A full 70% of homes will be deed restricted, with the potential for an even higher percentage through density bonuses. The plan includes the largest donation in Wyoming history (45 acres // 300 deed-restricted home) gifted specifically for affordable housing—which the landowners deserve credit for volunteering. There’s still a lot of work left to ensure the zoning rules are fair and viable. It is important that these homes support a broad socio-economic swath of our community, not just a few narrow buckets. As Commissioner, I would like to see the deed restrictions tiered across income levels. That is, the largest percentage dedicated to low-income families (i.e., 70 – 100% median family income) and gradually smaller percentages dedicated to higher income levels (100 – 120% MFI, 120 – 150% MFI, etc.). I would also like to see innovative deed restrictions incorporated, like Local Free Market options, that would benefit local, hardworking families that may not qualify for affordable programs but still struggle with housing insecurity.
Kasey Mateosky: I envision NSP being a blend of all working class families. There will need to be dwellings suited for Seniors, Singles, Couples and families. The draft plan is a good start.
Mark Newcomb: My vision is in line with the recently approved draft of the neighborhood plan that conditionally allows up to 1,700 new units (about 1,800 total once the 118 allowed under existing zoning are included). That plan envisions a base of 1,200 new units above the 118 allowed under current zoning. 480 of those units would be deed-restricted affordable and 360 would be deed-restricted workforce. The remaining 360 would be free market units, resulting in a 70/30 deed-restricted/free-market ratio for the new units. In our board discussions I lobbied for language that would lay a foundation for zoning language allowing future housing bonuses above the 1,200 new units so long as it improved upon the 70/30 ratio. In the end the board approved language that allows about 1,700 new units so long as the final ratio is at least 70/30. That language means that zoning would allow up to 1,700 new units, some 510 of which could be free market. I’m a little uncomfortable with that number of free market units and would prefer to see any new units above the 1,200 be deed restricted, essentially capping free market units at 360. We discussed allowing four-story buildings but did not ink that into the plan. While I support delivering deed-restricted units in as efficient manner as possible (decreasing the per unit subsidy as much as possible), I’m cautious about how four-stories would be received by the community. I’m also cautious about how many new units existing transportation infrastructure can handle. Traffic modeling indicated that a total of 1,318 (118 market allowed now plus 1,200 new units) is the maximum number of units the existing transportation infrastructure, with modifications, could handle. If infrastructure allows more units, NSP is the place, and four stories may be the most cost-effective way to build them. But we would be fool hardy to rush forward without proper plans for infrastructure.
Luther Propst: My vision for NSP is pretty simple: (1) maximize the ratio of workforce and affordable housing to market and luxury housing, which requires both planning and regulatory approaches as well as and public and philanthropic funds, and (2) provide for the widest feasible range of price points and product mix. The current plan is a solid step in the right direction; however, much of the heavy lifting remains — especially ensuring that a phasing plan requiring that workforce and affordable housing is actually built in parallel with market housing and ensuring a method to provide the non-profit sector, public agencies, and major employers the opportunity to increase the percentage of deed-restricted workforce and affordable housing.
It will take unprecedented and strategic partnerships to move the housing needle meaningfully. Which entities (besides other housing-specific organizations) should be working together to address housing insecurity? In practical terms, how would you use the levers of local government to help build collaborative partnerships among stakeholders in this region?
Brenden Cronin: The National Park Service and the U.S. Forest service have done an excellent job in housing their employees. I’d like to see them work more closely with the county to help house other government employees such as Fire/EMS, teachers, social workers, law enforcement etc. on federal land. While it would be quite the challenge working with two separate federal agencies, we need to recognize that we all live in Teton County and are dependent on each other.
Wes Gardner: Time and again, I find myself telling voters that progress requires a collaboration between the private, NGO, and public sectors. Jackson’s housing issues have been bubbling over since I arrived in the summer of 1997. The pandemic and the economic pressure of global wealth have turned these issues into a crisis. This new crisis is defined by a collapse of the private sector affordable workforce inventory. Hundreds if not thousands of beds have disappeared as neighborhood homes have sold for millions to owners who view their property as little more than an investment. In order to overcome this loss, I suggest we look to the private sector for help. Led by Devon Viehman, a cohort of local realtors have opted into a program raising funds for our local housing organizations. Securing a recurring revenue source is central (along with acquiring land) to achieving the goal of getting housing in the ground. I am working in support of this program to add new revenue streams from similarly committed entities. Raising money for housing is always a good thing, but more importantly, commitments like this could go a long way in RETT discussions in Cheyenne. If we had a properly sized and funded Housing Authority, we could be more active in building and maintaining partnerships. Instead of having to ask voters to support five different housing initiatives, each deployed by and to its own entity, I would have preferred to have a housing department with the capacity to handle a $50M request. Our department is dedicated to getting housing in the ground and community members in their beds. I can think of few places where investment in staff hours would bear more fruit.
Peter Long: It will take the involvement from every corner of our community to answer our housing crisis. Our local government cannot and should not be the only solution. We have seen what that go-it-alone approach looks like—piecemeal development that dabbles at the edges of the problem, and projects that run over budget and over time at the expense of taxpayers who themselves are often struggling with housing uncertainty. Landowners, private builders, non-profits, charitable organizations, and community advocates need to have a seat at the table. Part of that starts with new thinking that approaches opportunities from a standpoint of, how do we make this work for our community and pencil out—rather than applying a narrow Comp Plan litmus test to dismiss opportunities out of the gates. The County has a lot of tools to help bring these stakeholders into the fold, like density tradeoffs and incentives that can make projects economically viable (and often result in additional affordable housing, like in the Northern South Park plan). It ought to be using these as a carrot rather than seeking to exact concessions from those who would like to help address the problem. Finally, our housing crisis will require involvement from you—the person reading this—and everyone who calls Teton County home, to ensure development benefits our community and protects what makes this place so extraordinary. Because we get to the best solutions when we can have constructive debate and work across differences, even when we don’t see eye-to-eye.
Kasey Mateosky: Local government will need to be open to any and all suggestions for solutions. This will be a county wide involvement. It’s time to say yes to developers to at least try. If the idea doesn’t fit, then we can say no. Not allowing anyone to at least try and wait for another study is not the solution.
Mark Newcomb: Local government controls zoning regulations, and appropriate zoning that doesn’t unduly burden developers with unnecessary regulations, including parking regulations, would allow private developers and businesses better opportunities for building housing. Regulations could also make it easier to build accessory units in appropriate neighborhoods. With the right zoning in the right places, it’s possible the Chamber of Commerce could help businesses organize to build housing. In the meantime, The Jackson/Teton County Housing Department should continue to work with Habitat for Humanity on deed-restricted housing projects such as Grove Phase 3 (24 homes) and West Kelly (18 homes) and the Jackson Hole Housing Trust on projects such as Redmond Hall (28 homes) and North King Street (24 homes). The Housing Department should also continue to partner with charitable organizations such as the Cummings Foundation on innovative partnerships such as the one that will deliver 57 units at Jackson Place. Upcoming opportunities that the Housing Department should be prepared for include Northern South Park where the a family has proposed donating 45 acres of land to the Trust for Public Land to be used for workforce housing.
Luther Propst: I see two major parts to this answer, both of which have been tried and proven in other mountain towns around the West. First, our community needs an umbrella housing council that includes public agencies, non-profit housing organizations, major employers, lending institutions, and others. This housing council should be a venue for developing funding partnerships, sharing housing opportunities, and generally advancing strategies for growing housing availability. Second, diverse ecosystems are the most resilient; accordingly, our community should identify, recruit, and support a more diverse suite of non-profit and commercial builders of workforce and affordable housing. Take a look, for example, at the pioneering affordable and workforce housing that Homeword (homeword.org) has provided in seven Montana communities.
We believe our community needs to push the pause button on development (except housing reserved for locals) so we have time to recalibrate our zoning regulations to incentivize the development we want to see in our community. Do you think now is the time to impose a temporary moratorium? Why or why not? If so, how can we protect oursleves from Cheyenne’s invovlement? If not, how do you plan to change development patterns to work for low- and medium- income locals quickly?
Brenden Cronin: I do not think a moratorium is the answer, however I would like to see the mitigation rate adjusted to a midpoint between its current and previous level. We need to work with Cheyenne whether we like it or not. As commissioners it is our duty to make the trek across this state and meet face to face with lawmakers outside of this county.
Wes Gardner: A moratorium can only be effective with a properly restricted scope. The moratorium executed in 2018 lasted four months and was implemented to keep developers from beating the new mitigation requirements and zoning changes that already were well on the way to official approval. If we were to institute a comprehensive moratorium today, I worry that without a decisive path forward, developers and property owners would have little challenge in going to Cheyenne to overturn it. I also wonder how effective it could be in absence of a plan for executing new zoning changes or mitigation rates. Having said that, over the past two years low interest rates, high inflation, increased zoning density, and global market pressures have combined to send our housing markets spiraling. It is past time to revisit the mitigation rate and zoning changes that were instituted in 2018. Have they effectively accomplished our community goals? In some cases yes, others not so much. I am a big believer in legislative maintenance, whereby lawmakers revisit policy frequently to ensure that intended consequences are happening and unintended consequences are manageable. If elected, I pledge to accelerate the zoning and mitigation review and work with staff to craft regulations that reflect the needs of our community. Currently, funding represents the only effective way to create more medium and low income housing to bear is to increase funding. Exploring creative public-private partnerships as well as creating dedicated funding sources like the RETT will have the biggest impact on creating subsidized housing for our workforce and retirees. I would also pursue policy changes that would allow developers to exchange greater development rights for creating more heavily-subsidized (supporting lower income) housing. I understand that this represents a change in my perspective on a moratorium. My previous logic was more emotional than fully thought out. I am as frustrated as anyone with the trajectory of our town and county. Developers are winning and the community is losing. But upon deeper reflection and investigation, I do not believe that a moratorium is the proper tool to use at this time.
Peter Long: No. Our housing problem has reached the crisis level it’s at now largely because our local government has kicked the issue down the road. Twenty years of saying “no” to good housing opportunities has choked supply, which has finally come to a head. Imposing a moratorium would turn off chances to work with stakeholders to address the problem in a meaningful way. A moratorium would also invite greater management from lawmakers in Cheyenne, ceding control of local issues to the State Legislature. Absolutely, we need leaders in our local government who will thoughtfully consider new development—whether those projects preserve our community character, whether they will benefit our workforce and what impact they will have on our infrastructure. But out-of-hand saying no to any new development is throwing the baby out with the bathwater, which will exacerbate the housing supply shortage. We need leaders who can balance growth with our community’s needs and character. Which is why your vote matters in this election. I am humbling asking for your support to be your voice on the Teton County Commission—and to ensure Teton County remains a place where those working hardest can call home.
Kasey Mateosky: We need to bring all parties together to figure out the puzzle of building housing. We know what the problem to the puzzle is, now is the time to change the way we’ve trying to solve it. Some have land, others have philanthropy, others can bond—we can’t leave anything on the table. We need to ensure that given all of the current challenges with material cost, construction crews, etc, that we have a steady stream of housing projects going up. Could a pause help? Doubtful. I will bring these various actors together so we don’t leave anything on the table and we are building affordable housing for everyone, seniors included, efficiently and continuously. I have built hundreds of affordable units in Teton County for both the County and private developers. I know how to do this. Streamlining the planning process is an easy step. We can modify existing zoning regulations to fit what the working community needs. I’m on the planning commission and voted in favor of skipping the sketch plan requirements and going directly to a development plan for the Housing Trust Hoback project. The working middle class is Teton County’s most valuable resource. Both of my kids where born here and have been able to achieve homeownership by being to able to live in affordable housing when they graduated from the University of Wyo. It gave them the opportunity to recoup the money that would have been spent on rent and use that for their downpayments. Because of this we now have 4 grandchildren who where born here. I want this opportunity for everyone who wishes to chose that same path. Time for planning affordable housing is over, it’s time for doing.
Mark Newcomb: Apologies up front for a long-winded reply, but this is a very important yet very nuanced discussion. A moratorium is a serious step and should not be out of the question. It may not be the appropriate first step. We should set the mitigation rate on new development at an appropriate level before imposing a moratorium. The mitigation rate can be an effective tool to balance new housing for workers with new development. All new development generates the need for new employees (even if only to clean and maintain it). Those new employees need housing. The mitigation rate is the percentage of that required new housing that the developer is responsible for. The 2023 commission will be responsible for setting a new mitigation rate based on the results of the recent ‘nexus’ study that estimates how many new jobs are generated by certain kinds of new development. Five years ago the mitigation rate was raised so that new development in general paid for or constructed about a third of the housing generated by that new development. Under that housing standard Teton County permitted the Hoback Club in Teton Village, the largest commercial development the county has seen in decades. The developer exceeded the mitigation rate, soundly refuting critics who said that the rate would prevent any new development. In spite of that, three years ago the town and county, against my vote, cut that rate in half. Therein lies the case for a moratorium. Because as soon as we lowered the required housing standard for new development, new high-end lodging and short-term rental projects started popping up around town. Tax payers and charitable citizens are now saddled with costs associated with subsidizing the needed housing and/or transit alternatives for most of the new employees soon to be working at those new developments. And new employees at those new developments will be competing with all existing employees working for our existing businesses… (reached word limit)
Luther Propst: For three principal reasons, I don’t think that a development moratorium is the right tool to use at this point to encourage workforce and affordable housing in the unincorporated portion of Teton County (I reserve comment on the merit of a moratorium in the town of Jackson). 1. From a legal perspective, development moratoria must be limited in scope and duration; they are generally fraught with legal and political peril. Quite often, a moratorium ordinance doesn’t produce meaningful benefits unless there is an acute infrastructure failure to correct or a specific planning program to complete. 2. Most recent zone changes and significant development entitlements in the county have been to advance workforce and affordable housing (e.g. Jackson Hole Community Housing Trust project on south 89 at Horse Creek, Lower Valley Energy project on south 89 at South Park Loop Road, WyDOT project at the WyDOT facilities on south 89). There is a pretty high probability that a moratorium would create more sound and fury than meaningful benefit, particularly compared to the steady (although too slow) progress we are making. 3. Rather than expend limited staff and political band width on drafting, imposing and defending a moratorium, a better approach is to expedite updates to the county Land Development Regulations that encourage workforce and affordable housing — such as updating our housing mitigation regulations.