A single-family ranch home could soon be replaced by a three-story, 15-unit apartment complex for Jackson workers.
The town and county’s latest affordable housing effort marks the debut of new zoning designed to significantly boost residential density in some areas of town, but officials aim to steer the project sensitively so the 15-fold increase in density isn’t as big a shock as it might be.
The town and county purchased the 0.31-acre lot at 440 W. Kelly in January for $1.7 million. Now they’re seeking to take advantage of the town’s zone that allows for the most residential density, a new zoning district as of July 2018.
“The most exciting thing is that we have new zoning that actually can get us some workforce housing, and we should be proud of that and excited for it,” Jackson/Teton County Affordable Housing Director April Norton said.
The bulk of the new zoning district runs from Flat Creek Drive to Glenwood Street south of Broadway.
The Kelly lots mark the second time the Housing Department has bought land so it could seek proposals from private developers to build worker housing on the public parcel. Under the model the town and county maintain ownership of the land, but the developer owns the improvements and can rent or sell the units on the property.
It’s the same model first employed for housing at 174 N. King Street. Of four submitted proposals, the Town Council selected a developer who committed to providing 30 one- and two-bedroom apartments for the valley’s lowest income-earners.
The town’s rezone over the summer sought to transfer 1,800 units of residential development potential from the county into the town, in keeping with the comprehensive plan’s goal to preserve rural character and concentrate development in the downtown.
But the reality of what that means for Jackson’s neighborhoods is setting in, and some neighbors aren’t ready to welcome that density increase. The 440 W. Kelly project is requiring a minimum of 15 units.
Neighbors who live near the property are nervous about a 15-fold increase in density. David Bott, who lives a few houses down, told elected officials a three-story “monstrosity” would ruin his street.
“This is not just a case of ‘not in my backyard,’” Bott said. “This is going to destroy the character of the neighborhood.”
Some elected officials, like town Councilors Jim Stanford and Jonathan Schechter, were also anxious about the 15-unit minimum.
“My concern there is if this is really the first of any transitional neighborhood projects, if we get this one wrong and if everybody’s up in arms, then I’m concerned about the long-term consequences for all the housing programs,” Schechter said.
Others felt the density was needed in order to make the project work for developers and to get the best bang for the public buck when it comes to housing families. Mayor Pete Muldoon noted that with the property’s $1,703,568 price tag, reducing the minimum to as low as eight units could mean the town and county would be spending $212,946 on each deed restriction — not a great value.
At the minimum of 15 units, the price per deed restriction would be $113,571 for the town and county.
Councilor Hailey Morton Levinson said she would always favor more worker housing.
For Councilor Arne Jorgensen, when it comes to sensitivity to the neighborhood feel, the number of units isn’t as important as a design that’s friendly to the neighborhood streetscape. The request for proposals allows for creativity and flexibility in terms of unit sizes, types and design.
“The fact that this is a transitional neighborhood is real and that’s a challenge,” Jorgensen said. “There will be change in these communities and these neighborhoods and I think it is incumbent, particularly on a property that is ours, that we are doing that in a respectful way.”
The request for proposals includes criteria that urge developers to include an “attractive and active streetscape,” like requiring front porches and balconies, and habitable space on the ground floor. Norton said the town and county should see the project as an opportunity to create a positive “first impression” and set the tone for how the new high-density zone can be developed well for workforce housing. The zone allows for height and density bonuses for constructing restricted workforce housing.
“It’s that balance between building quality units that are safe, stable housing that fits in with the community and with the neighborhood to the extent they can, and doesn’t overwhelm the neighborhood,” Norton said.
The request for proposals is open to interested developers. An information meeting will be held Feb. 19, and the submission deadline is April 5. The Housing Supply Board and Norton will provide a recommendation for the Town Council and Board of County Commissioners, who ultimately select the winning proposal.