Jackson Town Councilwoman Gets Ticket For Parking In Front Of Her Own House

Jackson Town Councilwoman Jessica Sell Chambers learned she didn’t understand Jackson’s complicated parking rules when she got a ticket for parking in front of her own home. The rules prohibit parking the same vehicle within a single block area for more than 72 hours

Renée Jean

June 08, 20246 min read

Jessica Sell Chamber's tenants have been putting signs in their cars to let Jackson, Wyoming, police know they live in the homes they're parked in front of and are not just tourists camping out.
Jessica Sell Chamber's tenants have been putting signs in their cars to let Jackson, Wyoming, police know they live in the homes they're parked in front of and are not just tourists camping out. (Renee Jean, Cowboy State Daily)

JACKSON — Turns out this affluent northwest Wyoming town is struggling with more than an affordable housing crunch, it’s also short on parking. But even Town Councilwoman Jessica Sell Chambers didn’t understand just how drastic the situation is until recently.

That’s because Chambers was slapped with a $100 parking ticket for parking on a street beside her own residence.

Jackson has a parking ordinance that prohibits parking the same vehicle within a single block area for more than 72 hours.

Chambers knew that, but what confused her about the law is she’d been using her vehicle to go back and forth between town for work and other errands. That means her car hadn’t been sitting in the same spot for anywhere near that long.

“Even as a (council woman), I thought that it had to be a steady 72 hours,” Chambers told Cowboy State Daily. “And I’d been driving around for days, so to come back and find a ticket on my car when I’ve been driving the vehicle around was weird.”

Chambers raised the issue during Monday’s city council meeting. What she’d like to see, she told her fellow council members, is some type of residential parking permit.

“These 72-hour limits on particular blocks is an issue that’s affecting people in the community,” Chambers said, especially when it seems it’s being enforced as a cumulative 72 hours. “There are residents who are doing the right thing — using their bikes to get around the community or walking, or taking the bus — and they’re parked in front of their homes and getting $100 tickets.”

One of her two renters also got a couple of parking tickets within the week as well, Chambers added.

How anyone would know that the 72-hour rule isn’t the “steady 72 hours” Chambers thought the rule was isn’t clear. In two places on the town of Jackson’s own website, the law is presented as “72 hours at a time during summer months” on a page outlining town services.

On another page specifically for public parking information, it simply says “72-hour parking available on public streets beyond downtown from April 15-Nov. 1.”

Musical Cars

To understand why parking is becoming a flash point for Jackson residents, it helps to understand how both tourism and housing issues are playing into parking problems.

“We’ve had such an issue with people parking their campers, and then sleeping in front of other people’s homes, or parking their toys, adult toys and whatnot in neighborhoods for extended periods of time,” Chambers told Cowboy State Daily. “It’s a nuisance for homeowners, and then it can be kind of dangerous from a public safety standpoint when big RVs or whatever are blocking the view of stop signs on the street.”

That’s what prompted the 72-hour parking rules to curtail that behavior.

But many Jackson residents have also rented out portions of their single-family homes so they can afford both their higher-than-average mortgages — the latest average single-family home price is over $7 million — and ballooning property taxes.

“Our property taxes have doubled,” Chambers said. “I know I can’t in good conscience, like, double the rent or even multiply it by one and a half, so I did some number crunching and I figured out that we could expect maybe like a 3% to 4% increase in rent, depending on whether this gets to a point where we can’t make our mortgage payment.”

Chambers has two renters in a basement area of her home, and both renters have cars, as well as occasional guests. She and her husband, meanwhile, also have vehicles, one of which is an e-vehicle for getting around town. That one spends some time in the garage, particularly when it needs charging, with other vehicles blocking it in.

She feels that rentals like this are helping house some of Jackson’s essential workers, while at the same time helping homeowners deal with the mushrooming costs of owning a home.

But the parking situation is forcing them all to play a game of musical cars, particularly in the winter when there’s no on-street parking allowed.

“We’ll have three cars parked in the driveway in winter,” she said. “You can squeeze in four if you have to, but you end up on the grass.”

Every now and then, one or another guest has a friend over, too, and then the parking gets really tight.

“If you pull the cars all the way forward, you can get one more car in all the way,” Chambers said.

The situation means every morning cars are being moved around just to get people off to work.

In the summer, the situation eases a little bit — or so Chambers had thought — because the street is available for some parking. That also allows her to clear the driveway for the children to play basketball games on.

Jackson Town Councilwoman Jessica Sell Chambers talks with a local resident outside her home about the parking situation.
Jackson Town Councilwoman Jessica Sell Chambers talks with a local resident outside her home about the parking situation. (Renee Jean, Cowboy State Daily)

The Parking Lot Of Parking Problems

A survey of locals has found that around 76% of Jackson residents see at least some “room for improvement” with Jackson’s parking regulations.

That ranged from those who felt the situation was “pretty good” with a little room for improvement (16.67%) down to the situation is “pretty bad” and needs a lot of attention (9.72%).

With the parking study ongoing, Chambers’ issue was put into what she calls a “big parking lot” of ideas, called the PI, or Parking Initiative.

“This is one of those things with local government that we run the risk of ballooning these issues into massive things that just sit on the PI list and we don’t get around to but it’s affecting people every day right now,” she told her colleagues during a Monday night council meeting.

What she’d really like to see are residential parking permits, Chambers added.

“That would make the job of the parking enforcement person way easier,” she suggested. “It would also tackle this issue of allowing people to park in front of their homes.”

Chambers acknowledged the council has talked about that issue before and it seemed to be a “biggish” lift.

“Is there a temporary solution, or something that we can do?” she asked. “Like just advising the parking enforcement person in particular neighborhoods, like some kind of stopgap measure that could alleviate this.

Mayor Hailey Morton Levinson said the “big lift” isn’t so much changing the ordinance. It’s more about resources for enforcement and making sure the changes are effective at preventing the targeted problems.

“I think as we’ve all learned over the years of being around, making the ordinance change is one thing,” she said. “Carrying it out, executing it, changing processes, putting in the resources to make sure it is effective — that’s different.”

What also makes it a “bigger conversation,” Levinson suggested, are the “tentacles of parking” and how they reach across neighborhoods.

“When you push over here, it’s kind of like a turtle and how they don’t really fit in their shell,” she said. “You prod over here and then they just shift. The cars magically shift. So, it does have to be a comprehensive thing.”

Renée Jean can be reached at renee@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Renée Jean

Business and Tourism Reporter