Teton County planning commissioners are recommending that Teton Village businesses be able to use dormitory-style units to satisfy employee housing requirements.
In a 2-1 vote Monday the advisory board approved the change, which was requested by Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
“I actually want to laud Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and all the businesses in area 1 of Teton Village for very seriously considering the needs of their employees and the needs of their businesses to house their employees, and to ask for the flexibility to do it in a way that maximizes meeting the needs of their employees,” Planning Commissioner Karen Rockey said. “I honestly don’t believe the county government should be restricting common-sense business decisions. I am comfortable with this amendment.”
Under new rules enacted in July 2018, dormitory-style units may no longer fulfill employee housing requirements. Town and county elected officials enacted the change with the goal of encouraging construction of housing appropriate for full-time, year-round workers and families.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort built 26 dorm-style units at its Powderhorn Lane site behind Kmart in 2014 and 2015. Each of those employee units contains four individual locked bedrooms with a shared kitchen, living space and two bathrooms. Resort representatives say that style of housing is needed for the resort to house its seasonal workers.
The Teton County Planning Department has already confirmed that the resort has a vested right to build the second phase of housing at the Powderhorn site in Jackson, which will likely include more dorm-style apartments as well as regular apartments geared toward year-round middle managers with families.
But the resort wanted further assurance that it — and other businesses in Teton Village — can use dorm-style housing to satisfy employee housing requirements into the future, consultant Bill Collins said. The resort filed an application June 14 to alter the Teton Village Master Plan to allow for dorm-style units occupied by unrelated individuals.
“It’s anticipating beyond Powderhorn because the mountain resort is here in perpetuity, hopefully, [and] they will be building housing far beyond what Powderhorn employee housing is today,” Collins said. “This amendment simply adds dormitories to the menu of housing types that someone can choose from.”
Resort President Mary Kate Buckley told planning commissioners the resort has been proactive in providing workforce housing and just wants more flexibility.
Though permitted to move forward, the resort has been awaiting clarification that Powderhorn phase 2 and any future dorms would satisfy future employee housing requirements.
“We’ve been on hold,” Buckley said. “We wanted to make sure we could get credit for workforce housing.”
Melissa Turley, executive director of the Teton Village Association, has backed allowing all Village businesses to build dorm housing to satisfy requirements. So has Rob DesLauriers, who played a role in developing Hotel Terra and Teton Mountain Lodge and is now embarking on a new luxury condo project near the skier bridge.
“It would be extremely beneficial for us,” DesLauriers told planning commissioners. “Because of the seasonal nature of operating in Teton Village we just simply have more employees in the summer and the winter than the offseason, and we need a place for them to live, too.”
Commissioners Glen Esnard and Rockey voted in favor of the change, while Commissioner Sue Lurie voted against. She said she worried about making piecemeal exemptions to the rules for certain areas or entities, especially so soon after the new rules were approved in 2018.
“Our housing department made a very deliberate decision in 2018 to exclude this kind of housing,” Lurie said.