The story is a familiar one in the West. Interest in living in ski resort communities drives up housing values, and folks who can’t afford to live in the communities where they work, migrate downhill.
In Colorado, Aspen has tumbled downhill into Glenwood Springs, and in Utah, Park City has sprawled down the Wasatch Front.
But today’s ski resort story du jour appears in the New York Times, and focuses on tiny Alpine, Wyoming’s fastest growing community in the state between 2000 and 2004.
The town’s population is expected to increase nearly fivefold by 2010, making it the largest town in the Star Valley.
Most of the newcomers to the valley are flowing downhill from Jackson, a town most long-time residents of the Star Valley consider arrogant because of its wealthy and famous residents. And most of those newcomers are finding a home in Alpine, a honky-tonk loving, cowboy town that sprang up more than a century ago in the midst of communities settled by Mormon dairy farmers.
Religion became a political football in Alpine’s quest to have its own school, with both sides raising the fact that Alpine had no Mormon church and Alpine residents criticizing the mostly Mormon control of the school board,
Alpine has always had an outsider attitude about itself, and its newfound alliance with Jackson has broken open old wounds and reignited old hostilites. As Alpine residents welcome the development brought by the flood of commuters from Jackson, valley residents criticize that the development is ruining the valley.
Valley residents acknowledge the their land is now worth a lot more than it was a few years ago, and that their children now have the opportunity to work in the valley where they grew up, but they also say crime is increasing, as are the economic disparities between the haves and the have-nots.
Another familiar story on developments in the West focus on housing density, water problems and property values. But such stories usually are about suburban sprawl next to urban areas such as Denver or Salt Lake City.
But the Billings Gazette reports today on a high-density housing project proposed in Wyoming’s Big Horn County, a sparsely-populated area that current has about 4 people per square mile.
Organic rancher Bob Elliott’s plan to put a 137-home subdivision on 20 percent of his 750-acre ranch in the rural Wyoming county has drawn plenty of criticism in the rural county in northwest Wyoming.
Elliott says he’s puzzled by the opposition to the Dorsey Creek development, which he says would be a win-win for the area as it would provide modest, affordable homes while still maintaining the rural nature of the area.
He acknowledges that the county has never seen such a project, an opinion seconded by the county’s planner, who said the two previous major subdivisions had 10 lots on a 40-acre parcel, and the other was four lots on a 6-acre parcel.
Although clustered developments such as Dorsey Creek has been happening in around the country for years, it’s a relatively new concept in the West. Larimer County in Colorado offers incentives to property owners to use clustered development, and keep most of the land open for agricultural uses.
But not everyone is opposed to the Dorsey Creek development. Reed Williams, the chairman of the Big Horn County Planning and Zoning Board, chastised the project’s critics, and said, “If you can look on the positive side a little bit, stretch your imaginations a little bit, you’ll see this type of thing is coming no matter what,” he said. “Now do we want to just sit back, or do we want to help things along a little bit?”
With that, the Board voted to approve the project and send it along to the state for an environmental review.