Town Takes Over 440 West Kelly; More Progress and Uncertainty on Housing Crisis Horizon

A housing stalemate is over. The Board of Teton County Commissioners voted on Monday to give Jackson Town Council full control of 440 West Kelly, the site of an embattled plan for workforce housing. Over the…

A housing stalemate is over. The Board of Teton County Commissioners voted on Monday to give Jackson Town Council full control of 440 West Kelly, the site of an embattled plan for workforce housing.

Over the course of several months, that plan drew the ire of a small group of neighbors who didn’t want increased density on their street. Namely, they worried that a 12- or 16-unit apartment building would change the character of their neighborhood comprised of single-family homes.

But dozens more people wrote elected officials in support of such a plan, especially in the face of an ever-deepening housing crisis. And the area has been designated for increased density under the 2018 town rezone. The comprehensive plan also directs development in that neighborhood.

The two governing bodies, which jointly owned the property, couldn’t agree on how to move forward. The majority of Jackson Town Council members aimed to maximize the property’s potential and approve a 16-unit plan. County commissioners, however, worried about upsetting neighbors.

So the plan remained stalled until Monday’s vote. It passed 4-1 with Commissioner Mark Barron dissenting. He said separating the boards from a jointly owned property is an easy answer to a difficult conversation. “Coming to these conclusions, coming to a compromise is our responsibility,” he said. “I don’t believe that separating one board from one of these properties or the other is moving forward.”

But the tenor of other county officials was a notable shift from previous discussions. Commissioner Mark Newcomb, originally against a split, pushed to revive the conversation. He said a decision on 440 West Kelly wasn’t necessarily in the county’s purview.

The town went through a zoning process and the resulting zoning allowed for buildings of a certain size, he said.
But, “the county as a board did not issue any directives or clear input as to what that final zoning should look like or shouldn’t look like.”

With Jackson Town Council at the helm of 440 West Kelly, the property will likely move forward with the maximum number of bedrooms possible. The vote also means commissioners will get full control of an area slated for workforce housing that’s known as the Rains property located on the West Bank along Highway 390.

Councilman Jim Stanford didn’t like the sound of that.

“This is a shortcut to selling the Rains property, and I’m not interested in shortcuts,” he said. “I think the citizens of the town of Jackson and the town council deserve a voice in how the Housing Authority’s assets are managed or developed or not developed.”

Still, many housing advocates see the vote as a win. If the county sells the Rains property, however, that assessment could change.

So what’s the next step for 440 West Kelly? Jackson/Teton County Affordable Housing Department Director April Norton visited the KHOL studio to discuss.

She also told us about the Rains property, new measures the Housing Authority is taking to assist a broader segment of residents, and about the recent testimonies she heard in Cheyenne when lawmakers advanced a bill that could unravel Jackson’s affordable housing program.

Above: A 26-unit housing blueprint for the Rains property, which the Housing Authority purchased several years ago. Owners of Aspens Market, the Weiss family, have offered to purchase the property for $1.3 million to instead preserve it as open space. Now, Teton County commissioners will have the final say on what happens there after that board voted to give Jackson Town Council control of 440 West Kelly in exchange for county control of the Rains parcel.

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About Robyn Vincent

Robyn launched KHOL's news department. She has worked as a reporter and editor in Wyoming for the last decade and her work has aired on NPR stations throughout the West. When she's not sweating deadlines, Robyn sustains her nomadic heart by traveling the world with her notebook and camera in hand. Follow @TheNomadicHeart

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