With an aging sewer line, no sidewalks and no stormwater treatment to purify polluted runoff, officials argue Gregory Lane and its surroundings leave much to be desired.
Town Manager Larry Pardee aims to improve the neighborhood, which he called “one of the most distressed areas” in Jackson, with $8.5 million in specific purpose excise tax funding. That would augment funding he has already set aside to install new sewer and stormwater systems, and to construct sidewalks down the main road. According to the Teton County School District, about 100 children live in the area, and presumably many walk the road to get to nearby schools.
“It’s a highly unfortunate place we’re at,” Pardee said. “It’s not safe, it’s not fair, and it’s a complicated matter to solve because of the cost and the lack of space.”
Many of the businesses along Gregory Lane — which runs through the industrial park near the town of Jackson’s south boundary — are pushed right up against the road, often using the meager area in between for their operations. If the road is expanded, with a curb, gutter and sidewalk, some business owners fear it will leave them without enough room.
“People are concerned about losing their space,” said Brian Hasenack, who owns Intermountain Roofing, at a meeting with town officials. “We’re all working on a postage stamp, every one of us.”
Town officials met with the business owners last week and tried to assuage their worries, saying they were confident they could fit the new construction within the 40-foot right-of-way that already belongs to the town. That assurance put some owners at ease.
“It’s not like we’re trying to spring some kind of secret plan for taking people’s property,” Town Councilor Jim Stanford told the crowd.
However, it’s unclear whether that 40 feet overlaps with the land that some businesses have used as de facto private property for years.
Todd Scholtens, who owns Bison Lumber on Gregory Lane, has proposed his own solution.
Scholtens, whose office window looks out upon the road, disputes that 100 children use it, though he acknowledged that some do. But, he argued, it makes little sense to adapt an industrial park to pedestrian usage, considering heavy machinery and large vehicles will continue to operate there.
Instead, he suggested rerouting the foot traffic altogether, perhaps along a path that leads directly from the Gregory Lane housing to the school grounds.
“Make a sidewalk that goes around the mess, not through the center of it,” he said.
Town officials weren’t necessarily opposed to the idea, though it would likely require negotiations with property owners and the school district. Regardless, they said they want to involve business owners in the planning process over the next year or two.
Besides the sidewalks, the project would add stormwater treatment units throughout the neighborhood to filter harmful pollutants before they enter Flat Creek. Since 1996, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has deemed the creek impaired due to human activity.
The project would also include new infrastructure to prevent winter flooding in the area, and upgrades to a major sewer line that runs along Gregory Lane on its way to the wastewater treatment plant. The decades-old pipe, made of clay, is susceptible to cracking and leaking.
Officials want to lump all these projects into one for the sake of cost and time efficiency.
“We believe it’s too important not to do it,” Pardee said. “Too important to the environment, too important to the whole school, to Gregory Lane, and to the southwest corner of Jackson.”