Getting Downtown Zoning Right

Getting Downtown Zoning Right

For over two years the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance has worked with our partners and the Town Council to develop updates to our downtown (District 2) land development regulations (LDRs) which will help house our community’s middle class, help our small businesses find and keep hard working employees, and keep downtown vibrant and the heart of our community.

As the Jackson Town Council nears the finish line of adopting these updated regulations, they are working hard to sort out the final details. One of these is how to structure a workforce housing incentive program in order to empower the free market to generate housing that’s affordable to people who work here – specifically, should short-term rentals be allowed in “incentive” units within the “downtown core” area?

Recently, the Alliance helped analyze a potential downtown project to determine whether or not including short-term rentals as part of this incentive program would tip the balance and get workforce housing built. This quick and preliminary analysis indicated that including short-term rentals appeared to make the project “pencil,” so workforce homes would get built, and the number of workforce units would be greater than the number of jobs generated by the new short-term rentals.

Based on this analysis and our commitment to advancing balanced policy solutions that help house our community’s middle class, the Alliance made a quick decision to support allowing short-term rentals as part of the workforce housing incentive program.

Here’s the thing, since making this quick decision, we have dug further into this issue and discovered a significant unintended consequence: if all landowners in the downtown core zone used this incentive, the net impact to the community could be as large as 1.2-2.4 million square feet of short-term rentals – in other words, we’re adding millions of square feet of additional potential lodging or “non-residential” use. That is in clear conflict with the Town and County’s recent agreement to limit non-residential growth to “plus or minus zero,” an agreement we strongly supported – so we can’t support short-term rentals in this incentive without further analysis.

Furthermore, subsequent analysis conducted over the past week raises serious questions regarding whether including short-term rentals in the workforce housing incentive program would in fact produce more workforce housing than it would generate jobs.

This is an incredibly complicated issue and we recognize that neither we as an organization nor our community should be making decisions with long-lasting impacts based on the quick and preliminary analysis of one project. We should monitor and assess whether these workforce housing incentives perform well or whether we need to do other things to incent workforce housing. We support the Town Council direction to appoint a committee to look into these questions.

Being an organization committed to making decisions based on an honest conversation grounded in facts and data, we respectfully request the Town Council move forward with the proposed updates to the downtown LDRs without short-term rentals in the workforce housing incentive program at this time.

In addition, we respectfully request the Town Council direct planning staff to perform an in-depth analysis of the potential benefits and impacts of including short-term rentals in the workforce housing incentive program in order for our community to make the best decision for our future, and bring that analysis back for a robust community conversation as part of future code revisions.

Click here to send an email to Mayor Flitner and the Jackson Town Council asking them to please move forward with the proposed updates to the downtown LDRs without short-term rentals in the workforce housing incentive program at this time, and to direct planning staff to analyze the full impacts of including short-term rentals in the workforce housing incentive program for a robust community conversation as part of future code revisions.

Phone: (307) 733-9417
info@jhalliance.org
685 S. Cache St. PO Box 2728
Jackson, Wyoming 83001