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Community members gather to discuss the proposed model for downtown parking.

An open house regarding a proposed new parking model for downtown Klamath Falls brought 15 to 20 people to the Ross Ragland Cultural Center Wednesday night.

Scott Souders, assistant public works director for the City of Klamath Falls, and Joe Wall, planning manager, presented parking model information to the crowd and answered questions. They represented the Downtown Parking Advisory Committee.

The committee was charged last year with making the downtown parking model self-sustainable. Currently, it makes about half as much money as it uses to maintain the parking lots and spaces downtown.

Because of this, money from the city’s general fund has been used to supplement maintenance costs.

“The model that we’re presenting tonight is one that has been presented to council that they were supportive of on two different occasions during work sessions,” Souders began before presenting the new model.

The new model would eliminate parking permits entirely. It would require businesses to either provide and maintain parking spaces, or pay a fee for public spaces.

“If we eliminate parking permits altogether, there would be no reason to track those permits from an enforcement standpoint, which improves efficiencies for the enforcement officer,” Souders pointed out.

The number of spaces each business needs is determined by what type of business is and its size.

Souders used the example that restaurants need more spaces than office buildings because of the nature of the business, with more people coming and going.

Businesses would pay the fee with their business license if they don’t provide their own parking.

Souders pointed out that currently, out the 240 businesses downtown, only 185 purchased business licenses.

“Regardless if council accepts this model or not, then one thing we’re committed to do — and to establish how we’re going to do — is to identify how we get ahold of those businesses that aren’t getting business licenses,” Souders said.

Because some businesses are buying parking permits and some are not, the cost effect will vary if the model is implemented.

If the model is self-sustainable as the council requested, about 50% of businesses would see a decrease in the parking fees they are currently paying. Those businesses that currently don’t buy parking permits would have a new fee to pay.

According to a graph provided in the presentation, 17 businesses would pay $0 under the new model. The most common fee is $16 a month, with 71 businesses falling under that category. The largest fee is $328 a month, with one business falling under that category.

Attendees had lots of questions about the new model. Some felt that it set a precedent for increasing fees for businesses year after year.

Some were concerned that the criteria for determining how many spaces each business needs could have shortcomings, and not accurately reflect the need in all situations.

Others felt that the burden of maintaining parking expenses should not be the responsibility of the businesses downtown at all.

Souders explained that the model will be presented to the council on Monday, Oct. 7 at a public meeting. He advised anyone who has comments on the model to present them to council at that time.

The council meeting will be at 7 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall at 500 Klamath Ave.