Real estate broker and former county commissioner Harley Wilcox gained approval on July 28 for an amendment to the county’s zoning ordinance that allows housing in industrial zones.
In the current county land development code, no residential uses are allowed in the M-1 light industrial zone. Wilcox, who owns industrial property including lots in Driggs Centre off S1000E, went to the county with the request that dwelling units be added as a secondary use in the M-1 zone.
In Driggs and Victor, accessory dwelling units are allowed in industrial zones, and the draft county code currently working its way through the planning process also allows residential uses in industrial zones.
Wilcox explained that there is a high demand for workforce housing in Teton County, and that allowing secondary residential units like modular homes, single-family houses, and duplexes in industrial zones could encourage more development in those areas.
Several members of the public spoke in favor of the proposal at Monday’s meeting, citing the rising cost of housing and challenges in finding and keeping employees because of the scarcity of rentals.
“I think it’s a great idea and almost wish I had thought of it myself,” Commissioner Bob Heneage said about the code amendment.
Commissioner Mike Whitfield asked whether short term rentals could somehow be limited in industrial areas. Wilcox responded that he believed limiting short term rentals harmed the possibility of long term rentals across the valley. He said that in his experience, property buyers were willing to build more units when there was an opportunity to build short term rentals, because it makes development more lucrative.
“It doesn’t make sense right now financially to rent long term but [developers] are still building units. The more nice units are built, the more other units that are competing that aren’t quite as nice will come back as long term rentals,” he said.
Whitfield and Heneage voted in favor of allowing dwelling space that was 25 percent the size of the industrial space in the M-1 zone. Commission chair Cindy Riegel was not present.