Nikki Gill, 28, is the sales and marketing manager for the Jackson Hole Hereford Ranch and the commercial real estate manager of the Gill family holdings. She also sits on the steering committee for the Astoria Hot Springs Park redevelopment project.
“I think the Comprehensive Plan has prioritized land conservation at the expense of both property rights and affordable housing,” Gill said. “The comp plan’s idea of preserving open space is to zone large parcels of land one house per 35 acres, which doesn’t do much to truly conserve land or provide affordable housing.”
Gill called cattle ranchers the “greatest stewards of the land and protectors of open space” and said the agricultural community deserves more support:
“Instead, they continue to make it increasingly difficult for them to operate by over-regulating their land. An example of this is the fencing regulations recently proposed to the commissioners by the [Jackson Hole] Conservation Alliance. If preserving open space and Jackson’s ranching heritage is really a priority, then we should start working with our local cattle ranchers instead of against them.”
Gill said the only way to truly conserve open space in the county is through conservation easements, but large landowners are “entitled to a fair return on land that they have done such a great job of protecting for so many generations.
“If it weren’t for the handful of working ranches that have stuck it out well past their time, in spite of the efforts of the county, we would have had sprawl in Jackson decades ago,” she said.
Affordable housing for working families, middle-class families and small businesses is just as valuable as conservation, Gill said. She believes the current land development regs have contributed to the housing crisis without providing much conservation incentive.
“Under the new LDRs, most of the county has been zoned one house per 35 acres,” she said. “It seems the ‘pull of the rope, I’m on the board’ mentality has been the driving force of the last two comprehensive plans, and this philosophy has led us to our current housing crisis.”
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