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Comment Letter on Revisions to the Victor Cottage Court Ordinance

December 12, 2017

Victor Planning & Zoning Commission

Victor City Hall

PO Box 122

Victor, Idaho 83455

RE: Revisions to Regulations for the Development of Cottage Courts

Dear Commissioners:

Thank you for taking a hard look at revisions to the Victor’s cottage court ordinances. We would like to offer the following considerations in your review of these regulations:

  • Eliminate the Cottage Court Building Type, and re-establish it after comprehensive design standards are adopted by the City of Victor.  Cottage courts are a very generous tool; they allow for up to a 248% increase in underlying density and appear to allowed by-right in many residential zoning districts. In our view, Cottage Courts were intended to be thoughtfully designed, and a tool for truly affordable housing. Under the current code, they are neither. The City Council is contemplating the appointment of a design review committee in conjunction with the adoption of design standards. Please  require that Cottage Courts are subject to design review.
  • Require all or a portion of Cottage Courts to be deed-restricted workforce housing. Developers of Cottage Courts often tout their units as “affordable,” but the cold, hard numbers indicate otherwise. For example, the Meadows units rent for $1400, and per the 2014 Western Greater Yellowstone Housing Needs Assessment, this is only affordable to 39% of Teton County, Idaho households (many of which are dual-income with children). Also, the rental inventory in this price range is relatively plentiful – there is a far greater need for lower-priced housing.  Because the Cottage Court tool is an effective (and very generous) density bonus, Cottage Court units should be required to be deed-restricted proportionally for specific income categories in Teton County.

Rental Units Needed by AMI in Teton County, Idaho

Area Median Income (AMI)
≤50% 50.15% – 80% 80.1% – 120% >120%
Max. Income $26,750 $42,750 $64,200 >$64,200
Max. Affordable Rent $670 $1,070 $1,610 >$1,610
% Renter Population 31% 31% 21% 18%
Rental Units Needed by AMI 11 11 7 6

Source: 2014 Western Greater Yellowstone Housing Needs Assessment


Ownership Units Needed by AMI in Teton County, Idaho

Area Median Income (AMI)
≤50% 50.15% – 80% 80.1% – 120% >120%
Max. Income $38,750 $51,150 $93,000 >$93,000
Max. Affordable Purchase Price $99,400 $158,700 $238,700 >$238,700
% Potential Owner Population 5.6% 17.8% 36.7% 40%
Ownership Units Needed by AMI 45 143 272 191

Source: 2014 Western Greater Yellowstone Housing Needs Assessment

As seen by the preceding charts, “affordable” is a very specific term, and if the intent of the Cottage Court Building Type is to provide an affordable housing tool, then it should be guaranteed, deed-restricted affordable housing. Though no housing authority yet exists in Teton County, the city could hold a deed restriction and contract with a property management company to oversee a deed-restricted property as an interim step. There are also nonprofit organizations that could fulfill this role.

  • The city should require a deed restriction barring short-term rental use for all Cottage Court units unless it is part of a bona fide lodging use.  Short-term rentals have grown wildly in Teton Valley and limit the already scarce housing stock available. We have also seen developers try to use Cottage Courts for de facto hotels in residential zones. Though state law mandates that short-term rentals are a residential use for zoning purposes, we believe the City, in exchange for the effective density bonus provided by the Cottage Court Building Type, can legally require a deed restriction or simple development agreement to bar short-term rentals.

We hope these comments are useful and serve as a worthy points for your discussion. Thank you again for your hard work in the service of our community.

Respectfully submitted,


Shawn W. Hill

Executive Director

Valley Advocates for Responsible Development


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