County commissioners want more time to decide which of four developers should build affordable housing on county-owned land at 105 Mercill Ave.

Teton County is contributing about $2.1 million in land for the project, and a handful of developers are vying to build a housing complex on the site. So far commissioners haven’t reached a consensus on who should build the housing.

Jackson/Teton County Affordable Housing Director April Norton is recommending a proposal from developers Tyler Davis and Joe Rice, as Mercill Partners.

“They do give us the most units, the most bedrooms,” Norton said. “They house the most people, they have below grade parking, they maximize the site, and they’re willing to work with us on the design aesthetic.”

Davis and Rice’s design offers 31 units with 45 bedrooms, an outdoor courtyard with 6,700 square feet of common space, underground parking and 6,513 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor.

“We felt really strongly, when we looked at this project, about maximizing the bedrooms,” Rice said. “If you want to get to the 65% the county and town’s trying to get to, this is the way to do it.”

Commissioner Mark Barron supported the Mercill Partners proposal, saying its units are practically sized, house the most people, provide underground parking and storage.

“The goal is to put the most people into housing that we can in a livable way,” Barron said. “The 500-square-foot apartments or condominiums do that.”

For Commissioners Mark Newcomb and Luther Propst, a 24- or 25-unit, 36- or 37-bedroom proposal from the Jackson Hole Community Housing Trust was compelling, particularly in its goal to provide ground-floor commercial space to the Jackson Hole Children’s Museum.

“I’m struck by the opportunity there is with that project to combine our desire for workforce housing with our desire for dealing more effectively with day care,” Propst said.

Commissioner Natalia Macker favored a 27-unit, 33-bedroom proposal from the firm Onion Flats. It’s the only project that is all-residential and surpasses sustainability requirements by promising to be a net-zero energy building.

“The Onion Flats proposal really inspires me,” Macker said. “If we think about 10 or 15 or 20 years from now, what we want our decisions to have reflected in the community, I think bold, strong action on decisions like that could be really powerful.”

A proposal from Westmount Development Group did not appear to be anyone’s top pick.

Much of commissioners’ debate focused on what the appropriate unit size for deed-restricted, ownership housing should be. Proposals from Onion Flats and Mercill Partners aim for a higher volume of smaller units, including one-bedrooms around 500 square feet, while the Housing Trust offers one-bedroom units as large as 1,150 square feet.

“We expect that 85% of our larger one-bedroom units will be occupied by two people,” Housing Trust Director Anne Cresswell said. “They were specifically designed to be comfortable living spaces for a dual-income household.”

Next week, town and county officials will reconsider rules for what size households qualify for units. Specifically, they may change a rule that doesn’t allow couples to apply for two-bedroom homes. Commissioner Greg Epstein wanted to await the outcome of that meeting to choose a developer.

“They’re all great, they really are,” Norton said. “Ultimately it comes down to what’s most important to you all from a policy perspective.”

Commissioners meet to discuss the project again at 9 a.m. July 30. See all full proposals at JHAffordableHousing.org.

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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(1) comment

Gregory Miles

Onion Flats is my pick, I like the size of the units and the sustainability component. The center piece of the Mercill Partners project should be housing not more green space. It’s not usable year round and the maintenance will be problematic and costly. Why loose the advantage of additional floors for a single floor space in the core of downtown? That open court yard should incorporate housing units. We’ve got plenty of public parks and green spaces for people to gather in this town already... that we have to pay to maintain as it is.

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