The town of Jackson has wastewater capacity for the Gill family’s proposed 26-acre development in northern South Park.
“The plant has capacity currently, will have capacity for some time into the future,” Town Administrator Larry Pardee told the Wyoming House Agriculture, State and Public Lands & Water Resources Committee during a Tuesday morning hearing.
Pardee went on to say that “the town of Jackson has never publicly said we don’t have capacity for this development.”
He, along with Jackson Mayor Hailey Morton Levinson, dialed into the meeting to defend the Jackson Town Council for not yet deciding whether the Gill family can connect its proposed development to the Jackson Wastewater Treatment Plant. Pardee said a pending water and wastewater study is part of the reason a decision hasn’t been made.
“We want to make sure our water and sewer systems will meet all Wyoming laws,” Pardee told the committee, “and do so in a way that is fair to our residents, to our businesses, for future development, and to protect the health, safety and welfare of our greater community.”
The Gills have said a decision on their connection to municipal sewer has been “delayed” and that they’ve been asking for the go-ahead since October. The family has in turn taken to the Legislature to lobby for a bill, Senate File 157, that would prevent the town from requiring certain types of deed restrictions on properties looking to connect to municipal infrastructure such as water and sewer lines.
The bill is in part intended to address the family’s concern that the town of Jackson will require deed restrictions that limit property value in exchange for connection. If such restrictions were recorded on the property, they could augment the push for affordable housing but place limits on how the family can develop the land. The “suburban” zoning that governs the 26 acres in question does not require housing-oriented deed restrictions.
Whether there is capacity in the town-managed sewage treatment plant has been an open question. The Teton County Board of County Commissioners approved the family’s sketch plan for the 26 acres, which are in the county but adjacent to the town. But in February the board tried to delay a decision in part to learn more about the results of the town’s ongoing water and wastewater capacity study.
The Gills in turn argued that the town has been planning to connect the 26 acres for decades, and the family exercised an option in local code forcing the county board to vote.
Pardee’s statement was the first time in recent memory the town has acknowledged that its wastewater plant has capacity to connect the Gills’ proposed development.
The Jackson Hole Daily’s sister publication, the Jackson Hole News&Guide, has reached out to Johnny Ziem, the town of Jackson’s wastewater manager and assistant public works director, for comment on capacity and water quality issues in northern South Park more broadly. But Ziem referred the paper to the town of Jackson’s December letter about the development, which was authored under the previous council and said the town board had “sole discretion” to determine whether connection would be granted, “regardless of whether capacity is available or not.”
“This was the first time today that we have in fact heard that there is capacity,” Gill lobbyist Liz Brimmer told the House committee.
Pardee suggested to that assembly that the ongoing neighborhood planning effort spurred by the family’s earlier rezone proposal was a factor in the study.
“We want to make sure we understand all of the needs of this landowner, the other landowners that have development opportunities, and our local constituents,” he said.
Pardee also said that Jackson Hole’s booming real estate market is part of the reason officials are concerned.
The town is now considering the connection agreement, and Morton Levinson told the legislative committee that a decision will be reached by May 3.
Pardee said the water and wastewater study would be completed in May or June.