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Hotel digging to solve old pollution problem

Jackson council approves 65,000-square-foot plan.
An architectâ??s rendering shows what a new hotel on North Cache will look like. The project will have underground parking. COURTESY RENDERING
By Benjamin Graham, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
December 19, 2012

Town leaders aren’t worried that a hotel proposed for North Cache Street will become another empty, undeveloped hole in Jackson.

In fact, having developers excavate a basement on the lot would help rid the town of a large plume of benzine that lurks under the property, Jackson Town Council members said at a meeting Monday.

With that advantage in mind, council unanimously OK’d plans for a hotel on land that once housed a Texaco station.

Developers working on the project said they plan to remove contaminated water and dirt from the property before starting construction. The hotel’s new design includes basement space that would extend 20 feet into the ground.

Not just another hole

During public comment at the meeting, some residents were skeptical the project will be finished. They worry the town will end up with another empty lot, like “Jackson’s hole” at the corner of North Glenwood Street and Gill Avenue.

“You certainly do not want to end up with another hole or blank space, especially in that prominent location,” said Melissa Wittstruck, community planning director at the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance.

Town council members liked the hotel’s design and the added benefit of having the toxic pollution removed.

“What’s ironic is, if there’s any place in town that we want a hole dug, this is it,” Councilor Greg Miles said.

Mayor Mark Barron agreed.

“My strongest concern has been that plume, which is being completely wiped out in this plan,” Barron said.

State pitches in $100,000

Property owner North Cache Investment LLC hired an environmental firm, URS Corporation, to study the soil contamination. The group estimates 3,600 cubic yards of dirt need to be removed.

“The state of Wyoming is charged with cleaning up these sites, and we were assured they would do that,” said Warner Stone, a legal representative of North Cache Investments.

The State Department of Environmental Quality will pay $100,000 toward the work, he said. The property owner has committed to take over the cleanup after the state agency uses its allotted money.

As a condition for approval, the developers will be required to present a final soil remediation and construction staging plan to the council before a building permit is awarded.

With environmental contamination addressed, others residents worried about the size of the building.

Monday’s changes will result in a smaller hotel above ground, but the project still will increase from 50,000 square feet to 65,000 square feet with additional rooms and a parking garage below ground.

“It looks a lot better,” said Armond Acri, executive director of Save Historic Jackson Hole. “We are concerned that the thing continues to keep growing. The gross [square footage] is what has an impact on the community.”

The hotel’s partners are talking with three major hotel chains, including Hilton and Marriott.

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