Andy Davis was shocked Saturday to find he’d been ticketed for parking at Kmart.
“Thirteen years-plus I’ve parked there, never got a ticket,” the 20-year Jackson resident said.
For years, people like Davis have used the Kmart parking lot for more than shopping at Kmart. They drop their rigs there to catch the START bus, or meet up in the lot to carpool.
But on Saturday, the Jackson Police Department received a call from Kmart Plaza’s property managers. They phoned in a request to ticket people parked in front of the empty big box store. In February, Kmart closed after nearly 30 years.
About 30 cars received $70 citations.
Maury Abrams LLC, which owns the 8-acre parcel that was home to Kmart and still houses the vacant store’s parking lot, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Signs on the property — the Jackson Hole Daily counted at least five Monday — warn against parking in the lot for those who are not customers or employees. Some forbid abandoning vehicles or listing them for sale in the lot. Others specifically caution against using the lot as a park and ride. A START bus stop is located steps away.
Still, parkers like Davis said they’ve been using the lot for years with no problem.
“They put signs up a couple years ago, but they didn’t ever ticket anybody,” Davis said. “The owner probably didn’t want to offend any customers.”
Jackson Police Department Lt. Roger Schultz said Albertsons has towed cars “on occasion,” but those are usually stored for what appears to be the “long term.” Schultz said he didn’t remember events similar to Saturday’s in the Kmart lot.
“I don’t recall many occasions in the past where we’ve been asked to go to the location and write tickets,” he said.
“I’ve never known it to be an issue,” Gina Jones said.
Jones has been parking in the lot for about eight years. She used to live in Star Valley, and, when she came to Jackson, she would meet family and friends in front of the store. On Saturday, Jones, who now lives in Jackson, met her daughter there before going to T.J. Maxx and visiting downtown. She assumed that “people would be OK with you parking there.”
“Downtown is so congested,” she said. “It’s almost impossible to find two spots next to each other.”
Davis felt similarly, especially since the building that used to house Kmart is empty.
“The neighborly thing would be to let people use the lot to reduce congestion, take people off the road, reduce wildlife collisions,” he said, “All the things we’re trying to do as a community.”
In a Facebook post, the Jackson Police Department said towing would be used going forward to enforce parking. Maury Abrams did not confirm that by press time. But it seems likely that people who park regularly in the Kmart lot will have to find another spot.