440 W. Kelly meeting

Perri Stern gives public comment in July during a joint meeting of the Jackson Town Council and Teton County Board of County Commissioners. After much opposition from Stern and others who live near 440 W. Kelly Ave. to a proposed housing project, the neighbors have proposed their own concept.

After months of resisting attempts to build a dense housing project near the fairgrounds, neighbors in the area have come up with a few ideas of their own.

The coalition of community members, led by Perri Stern, has proposed several concepts for housing on the embattled site of 440 W. Kelly Ave. All are smaller and offer fewer units than the designs elected officials have rejected since July.

“The reason we did this was we wanted to show that the immediate neighborhood group and surrounding community is not opposed to increased density on that property,” Stern said. “But we are very concerned that whatever increased density goes on that site is compatible with the neighborhood.”

In a letter to the Jackson Town Council and Teton County Board of County Commissioners, neighbors offered three alternatives they feel would both address Jackson Hole’s housing shortage and fit in with the surrounding neighborhood. All would fit within the same footprint of 7,200 square feet.

The first, and the one they prefer, would create six three-bedroom townhomes tailored to families. Even that would be a 600% increase in density for the site, which now houses one single-family home, but would still be less than half the size of the 16-unit design elected officials first considered.

The next option — and the second favorite — would result in eight units, half with one bedroom and half with two, to meet the greatest housing need for small, affordable homes. The last option is for 10 units, with a mixture of one, two and three bedrooms.

“There are so many housing needs in Jackson,” Stern said. “Each of the concepts responds to needs in the community, and they respond in different ways.”

There are no actual designs for these projects yet, only parameters based to some extent on Habitat for Humanity’s recent housing project at The Grove. Neighbors and some elected officials have in the past suggested pursuing a partnership with Habitat, but Stern said they also believe the current developer, J. Roller and Tack, would be a “fine partner.”

Stern argues that this is the kind of role neighbors should play in all housing projects.

“We don’t want to tell an architect how to do their job,” she said, but she believes community input would lead to better outcomes.

“We feel like the process by which we figure out these increased density projects needs to be more collaborative between the town and county, the housing department, and whatever neighborhood it’s in,” she said. “It needs to be a much more collaborative process — one that addresses housing needs in Jackson but also is alert to and respectful of our neighborhoods.”

The new concepts could open a new path forward for the fraught project, which stalled again earlier this month after the town and county failed to agree on what to do with it.

A smaller design is more in line with what some, notably Commissioner Luther Propst, have advocated. He and others say community support for this project is essential to the long-term viability of the housing program overall, particularly as officials prepare to ask voters for housing funds in the upcoming specific purpose excise tax election.

Others have been slow to accept a project of as few as 12 units, let alone six or eight. Citing the huge gap between housing supply and demand, they say it would be irresponsible to skimp on opportunities to provide more housing.

The project will come up next at the town and county’s joint meeting at 1 p.m. Oct. 7.

Contact Cody Cottier at 732-5911 or town@jhnewsandguide.com.

Cody Cottier covers town and state government. He grew up with a view of the Olympic Mountains, and after graduating Washington State University he traded it for a view of the Tetons. Odds are the mountains are where you’ll find him when not on deadline.

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