A Park, Not a Parking Lot!

A Park, Not a Parking Lot!

The Alliance is urging our Town Council to zone Tract 5 as Park now – extinguishing unwise uses like a parking garage or toxic snow storage.     

-> You should too!  This item is on the agenda for the Town Council regular meeting at 6 PM on October 2nd. 

 As the Town gets nearer to determining what the elements of Karns Meadow park will look like, they first need to rezone the property tracts into zoning that will support a public park. Currently the tracts at Karns Meadows are zoned as Neighborhood Low Density (NL).  The town can use either Park or Public/Semi-Public (P/SP) zoning – both will support a park.  The difference lies in that P/SP allows for much broader uses than does Park – for instance P/SP allows for a primary use for parking or snow storage – two uses that would not be allowed under Park zoning (a small parking lot solely for park use would be allowed in Park zoning – like Mike Yokel Park).  

This shouldn’t matter – the Karns tracts all have conservation easements, right? 

      Right and wrong.  The tracts all do have easements, though each easement enumerates the allowable uses individually (as do all conservation easements).  Tract 5 is unique in this regard, as the restrictive covenant for Tract 5 (a legal document that lays out the terms of the conservation easement) explicitly allows for “a public parking lot and/or parking garage” as well as “snow storage” right there in Karns Meadow!  Snow storage in Jackson has been shown to contain hydrocarbons, metals, salt, and sediment – all of which are pollutants in our streams.  I was surprised when I first learned that both of these uses were written into the 2008 document. 

     What is not surprising is that people are now eyeing Karns Tract 5 for Parking!  Space is so limited and of such high value in this area – the option to develop a parking structure is going to become greater and greater every year – especially with the density that is sought in midtown and the Town Virginian housing development right around the corner.   

     In fact, in both of the last two joint information sessions for the Board of County Commissioners and the Town Council, parking has been suggested to be a primary use for Tract 5.  Thank you to Mayor Levinson, Councilors Schecter, and Councilor Rooks for taking action to prevent Karns from being considered as overflow parking for the Virginian development.    

If the conservation easement cannot protect Tract 5 from a parking garage, what can?  

     It wouldn’t be a permanent fix, but zoning Tract 5 as Park instead of Public/Semi-Public would provide an additional layer of protection on this tract.  And it would send a clear message to future Twon Councils that this land is meant to be used as a public park intended to balance human and wildlife use, not as an overflow area to park cars, boats, and RV’s.  In the Park zone, allowable uses are limited to what serves the public park.  With Park zoning, a large parking structure and snow storage as primary uses would not be allowed.   The Alliance is urging our Town Council to zone Tract 5 as Park now – extinguishing unwise uses like a parking garage or toxic snow storage.    You should too!  This item is on the agenda for the Town Council regular meeting at 6 PM on October 2nd.  

     In the long-term, only a conservation-minded Town Council who understands wildlife can prevent unwise uses, like a parking garage, that are currently allowable under the conservation easement.   One of the privileges of owning land and legislating zoning is that the Town Council gets to control the zoning for the land the Town owns.  This means any future Town Council could rezone any town land, including Tract 5. 

 What’s next in the Karns Meadow process: 

The next steps: 

  • Rezone to zoning that supports park 
  • Receive additional analysis from EcoConnect Consulting regarding the impacts of the desired park elements
  • Master Plan Development
  • Conditional Use Permit Application 

     In Monday night’s Town Council meeting there was some confusion if a Master Plan for Karns Meadow would be seen by the Town Council before a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) is submitted for the actual park design, or if they might come concurrently.   Either way, we are likely to see significant decisions being made for the future of Karns Meadow this fall.  Watch this space for updates and action alerts. 

     We know the Town is waiting for additional analysis by EcoConnect Consulting (the same consultant who completed the Karns Meadow Environmental Assessment) regarding the impacts of the four allowable uses they plan to pursue in the initial park design:  

  1. A pathway of some sort (surface type and pathway footprint have not yet been released) – The Alliance is advocating for permeable pathway that does not encircle the meadow – see our low development park design concept
  2. A bathroom structure
  3. A small parking area for the park only
  4. A picnic structure 

Take home message: 

Short Term – we need advocate that Tract 5 be zoned as a Park, then be ready later this fall to advocate for a park design that will protect the important hydrology, habitat and travel corridor provided by Karns Meadow.  

Long Term – We need to continue to elect local leaders who have the courage to safeguard the value of undeveloped land. 

C’mon, we won’t let this happen in our community, will we?  They Paved Paradise and Put Up a Parking Lot, Joni Mitchell 

Phone: (307) 733-9417
685 S. Cache St. PO Box 2728
Jackson, Wyoming 83001