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County buys land for affordable housing

January 11, 2019

The foundation for Jackson’s next housing project is laid, with two lots on West Kelly set aside for affordable and workforce units.

The county paid $1.7 million to attorney Michael Clement and Linda Clement on Thursday for the property, and the town will reimburse 45 percent. Both lots — which will be transferred to the Jackson/Teton County Housing Authority — are zoned at the highest level, NH-1, which enables a bonus that allows developers additional density in exchange for building workforce housing.

“We kind of get the most bang for our buck,” Housing Director April Norton said.

The project, located at 440 W. Kelly Avenue, will likely provide at least 10 units. Norton said she expects they will be a mix of affordable housing, designated for lower-income residents of Teton County, and housing restricted for local workers.

A special meeting of the Town Council and Teton County Board of County Commissioners to discuss a request for proposals is set for Jan. 29. If both approve the request, Norton said it will be released Feb. 5.

“My hope,” she said, “is we will go from purchasing the property to actually welcoming homeowners in 18 months.”

She said she expects parking requirements to be the biggest question for elected officials. Essentially, stricter parking requirements equals less housing.

At the 174 N. King Street housing project — the first in which the town offered land in exchange for an affordable housing project, and, therefore, the precedent for this one — officials asked developers for a response that met all parking requirements, but allowed another that offered alternative parking solutions.

Norton said the additional response took a lot of time and energy for the developers, and she will suggest that the officials select a minimum requirement at the outset.

Under the zoning NH-1, developers receive extra height and density if they build 1 square foot of deed-restricted housing for every 2 feet of market-rate space, boosting their profit and building more workforce housing.

“Our purpose is sort of twofold,” Norton said. “One is to get a project going ASAP. But two, that’s a newly rezoned area, so being able to show people how to develop in that zone, and sort of setting the tone.”

The NH-1 zoning is new as of summer, when the council enacted a fresh set of land development regulations for much of Jackson, with the goal of absorbing housing from the county. High-density areas like this are one solution to fitting that development potential in town and preserving its rural surroundings.

This will be the first housing project on an NH-1 property, but the town owns other lots that are zoned similarly. Norton said this will give the town an idea of what to expect from development proposals on the others.

Norton said the Housing Authority also plans to release a request for proposals in February for another project at 105 Mercill Avenue, which Teton County owns.

According to the Housing Supply Plan, two more properties are slated for planning and development later in the year: county-owned land at Jackson Street and Kelly Avenue, and town-owned land at Karns Meadow.

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