Jackson/Teton County Affordable Housing Department Director April Norton is recommending developers Tyler Davis and Joe Rice to build housing on Teton County-owned land at 105 Mercill Ave.

Out of five developers that submitted proposals for the housing project, Norton said in a staff report, “they house more people, provide more units and common space, and maximize the site.”

The value of Teton County’s land contribution for the project is about $2.1 million, and a handful of developers are vying to build a housing complex on the site. The Teton County Board of County Commissioners has the final say on which project is selected at a meeting that starts at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Davis and Rice’s design, from firm Mercill Partners, offers 31 units with 45 bedrooms, a courtyard with 6,700 square feet of common space, underground parking, and 6,513 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor, possibly to house a restaurant and office space.

Because that commercial space generates employees, four units are required to be income- and price-restricted as affordable, with prices starting at $66,500. The remaining 27 units would be restricted for full-time Teton County workers, with an appreciation cap but no restrictions on the initial unit price. The proposed prices range from $251,400 for a 419-square-foot one-bedroom unit to $525,000 for an 875-square-foot two-bedroom unit.

“We’re super happy, no doubt,” Davis said, “and we’re excited for the opportunity to work with the county on the project. I think a big part for us, we supply the best bang for the buck for the taxpayers, with us providing more units, more bedrooms, more workers housed for the project compared to the other competitors.”

That’s the analysis that led Norton to endorse the project, the staff report said, after balancing livability, affordability and return on public investment with her mandate to house at least 65% of the workforce locally.

She said a 27-unit proposal from developer Onion Flats also stands out. That proposal was the only one submitted that’s entirely residential with no commercial space. With a total of 27 units and 33 bedrooms it houses the most “net workers,” according to Norton’s analysis. Other proposals include commercial space, which generates employees. So the “net workers” calculation subtracts the added workers from total workers projected to be housed. County formulas are used to estimate how many total and net workers will occupy units.

Two of the units would be income-restricted, while the rest would be restricted for the workforce. Also, uniquely, the Onion Flats project goes above and beyond sustainability requirements, with a net zero energy building, furthering Jackson Hole’s ecosystem stewardship goals. Onion Flats developers said they hope county commissioners support the Comprehensive Plan’s goal to achieve carbon-neutral buildings by 2030.

“We think Jackson has an incredible opportunity right now to be a leader in housing development, showing the community and region it is possible,” Onion Flats project architect Lindsay Schack said.

At 45.75 net workers housed, Onion Flats’ project slightly beats out Mercill Partners’ 41.21 net workers housed, per Norton’s calculations.

Though not recommended by Norton, the advisory Housing Supply Board also supported the Jackson Hole Community Housing Trust’s proposal along with Onion Flats and the Mercill Partners plan.

The Housing Trust proposes to build 24 to 25 units with 36 to 37 bedrooms. More than half the units — 13 — would be restricted affordable, meaning they would be income- and price-restricted, and the rest would be restricted for full-time Teton County workers. Norton’s staff report estimates the project would house 31 to 33 net workers.

The Housing Trust also aims to offer its commercial space to the Jackson Hole Children’s Museum.

Norton and the Supply Board were critical of the Housing Trust’s proposal for offering 10 one-bedroom units of more than 1,100 square feet, saying smaller units could house more workers and subsidized housing units shouldn’t be too big.

But Anne Cresswell, Housing Trust director, said she “can’t make sense of” Norton’s recommendation. She disputes the Housing Department’s calculations of how many workers each proposal will house, saying in the Trust’s 25 years of experience developing housing, smaller one-bedroom apartments of around 500 square feet are almost certain to be occupied by just one person, while larger ones are more livable for couples, meaning they could house two workers.

“Our larger one-bedroom units were designed with two adults in mind to maximize the number of people we can serve, which maximizes the affordability of the units,” Cresswell said.

Cresswell also said the Trust stands out as the only nonprofit developer competing for the project, “to maximize the impact of a public contribution because equity is not returned to investors upon project completion and sales prices do not have to support a developer fee.” Rice and Davis’s project costs, for example, include a $1.2 million developer fee. Onion Flats’ proposal lists a $311,910 developer fee.

Visit JHAffordableHousing.org to read the full staff report.

Contact Allie Gross at 732-7063 or county@jhnewsandguide.com.

Allie Gross covers Teton County government. Originally from the Chicago area, she joined the News&Guide in 2017 after studying politics and Spanish at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

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