A two-building addition to Valley View Apartments south of Wood River Middle School could significantly boost Hailey’s affordable housing stock, property owner Kevin Garrison told the Hailey Planning and Zoning Commission Monday night.
Garrison hopes to add 24 units to the complex, which currently comprises 52 units across six buildings. His proposal includes a new 16-unit building along Second Avenue and a new 8-unit building, both of which would be divided evenly into studio and one-bedroom apartments. The smaller building would replace its predecessor, destroyed in a 2006 fire.
“I have the easy opportunity to just replace the [two-bedroom] apartments that were already there. But given what I perceive the needs of the community to be for more affordable housing, I’d like to split this building up into one-bedroom and studio apartments,” Garrison said.
Valley View’s proposed 375-square-foot studio apartments would start around $700 per month and its approximately 500-square-foot, one-bedroom apartments would run between $800 and $900, he said. Twenty percent, or about five, of the new units would need to be “deed restricted or restricted to low-income housing,” reserved for those making 50% or below the area median income, according to project architect Errin Bliss of Bliss Architecture.
That’s because Garrison and Bliss are seeking to classify the project as a planned-unit development, a designation that comes with its own low-income housing requirements. A PUD classification would better accommodate the project’s current density of about 15 units per acre, they said, well above the current maximum density of 10 units per acre in the General Residential zoning district. (Valley View’s existing high density is still legal because the property was approved under different zoning guidelines.)
The entire 3.5-acre apartment complex, long an affordable housing option for Hailey residents, dates back to 1977. Garrison said when he purchased the property in 2015, it was known colloquially as “the Hailey Knife and Gun Club” and drew a nightly police presence. Over the last six years, he’s installed full on-site security, remodeled most of the units, built new sidewalks and reduced overall water consumption by 35%, he noted, all the while watching crime drop.
“It used to be that we’d have officers show up every day or two,” he said. “That’s not the case anymore.”
While P&Z commissioners on Monday commended Garrison for his many property improvements and emphasized the value of affordable housing, they said they were opposed to raising density in an already-dense location. (The 24-unit expansion would create a new density of 21 units per acre.)
“The work that Mr. Garrison has done to get rid of the stigma that this place had six years ago is exemplary,” Commissioner Richard Pogue said. “And this community does need more housing, and this is one way to get it. But we have a responsibility to the city to keep this project within the General Residential guidelines, which it does not already conform to.”
“We’re looking at an already radically non-conforming density,” Commissioner Dan Smith said, agreeing. “To make that even higher would impact the sense of place in this area, parents taking their children to the middle school and kids walking and biking to get there.”
Unlike other P&Z members, Chairwoman Janet Fugate said additional amenities proposed by the applicant team—over 28 new parking spaces and new landscaping buffers, for example—could outweigh the density concern. Like Smith, though, she felt that Garrison should conduct a traffic study due to Valley View’s proximity to Wood River Middle School.
Garrison responded that middle schoolers living at Valley View overwhelmingly walk to school and “younger children take the bus to the elementary school,” generating very few car trips. He added that regardless of whether the P&Z approves the 24 units in the future, he will continue making improvements—up next, a shaded eating area and new playground equipment.
“That’s going to happen,” he said, “because it’s just the right thing to do for my tenants.”