By Jasmine Hall
Jackson Hole Daily
Via- Wyoming News Exchange
JACKSON — A draft bill criticized for attempting to take away local control over leases on state lands failed to gain traction among lawmakers this week.
It was killed in a 7-7 vote by the Joint Revenue Interim Committee on Monday after more than an hour of public testimony and after drastic cuts to the bill’s language.
The bill would have given the state even further weigh-in on the leasing and sale of state trust lands, whether in allowing residential development through leases outright or giving leeway to the Office of State Lands and Investments to create the rules that might have superseded local governments.
While the push for the bill came from the deputy director of the Wyoming Office of State Lands and Investments, Jason Crowder, there was little support from stakeholders such as the Wyoming County Commissioners Association and Wyoming Stock Growers Association.
They described the bill as an overstep on the state’s part and expressed frustration that it kept coming back for consideration.
Jim Magagna, executive vice president of the Stock Growers Association, said during the meeting that the State Board of Land Commissioners had always acted as a good neighbor but was moving away from that approach.
“We shouldn’t be losing that,” he said.
The same was said later in the week by lawmakers from Teton County. The county and the state have been battling it out in court to see who has jurisdiction over the “glamping” operation with geodesic domes on state land south of Teton Village since the State Board of Land Commissioners first approved a five-year temporary use permit.
“It’s concerning to me that the subject matter of that bill keeps coming up,” Rep. Andrew Byron, a Republican representing parts of Teton and Lincoln counties who sits on the Revenue Committee, told the Jackson Hole Daily. “Government doesn’t need to be competing with the private sector as it relates to residential housing. We need to continue to push for local control so we don’t end with domes that look like they belong on Mars at the base of the Tetons.”
The legislation in its original form not only would have added “residential” to the kinds of state land lease options already available, such as industrial, commercial and recreational, but would have given the Board of Land Commissioners the authority to create rules “providing review criteria related to the leasing of state lands for commercial or residential purposes.”
Some other parts of the bill addressed the recreational purpose and market value definition already in state statute, good faith negotiations and adding that the purchaser of the land would pay the market value of the improvements. Although these were points of discussion, many focused on fighting against stripping local entities of their power.
The review criteria would “provide consideration” for local government provisions on areas such as zoning regulation or land use planning, “except to the extent the provisions violate the Wyoming Constitution with respect to the administration of state lands.”
Rep. Liz Storer, a Teton County Democrat who along with Byron voted to cut that portion of the bill, wondered what parts of the state constitution were being violated by local regulation. She also voiced concern about the management taking place as a result of previous legislation passed to pursue maximum revenues on leasing in Teton County.
“This language opens the door to make it even easier for the state to ignore local land use laws and regulations and other concerns that any community might have, which may differ from Teton County,” Storer said Monday. “But it’s also important to take into account that Teton County does have the highest land values in the state.
“That’s for a number of reasons, but one of those is the fact that we have very strict land use regulations.”
She said the northwestern county seemed like a guinea pig for commercial leasing of state lands, in particular the lease for an 800-unit storage facility on the parcel near Teton Village off Highway 390. Another point of contention was the glamping domes. She wanted more collaboration with the community and didn’t believe this would be the answer.
“The current statute is clear that development on state trust lands should comply with local land use planning and zoning laws, and the committee clearly supported those provisions,” Storer followed up on Thursday. “I hope we don’t need to revisit this for the umpteenth time in the future. It’s time for OSLI to comply with the statute and follow their own rules.”
Other legislators agreed as they voted to pass amendments. There was very little of the original bill left by the time it came to a final vote, and Byron said he was glad the changes were made even if the bill didn’t survive.
“It sends a clear message that a disconnect exists between what the citizens of Wyoming want and what [Office of] State Lands [and Investments] is after,” he said.