A plaza became a park during an uncharacteristically quiet city council meeting Monday night.
The council discussed a change in the wording for the parking permitting process which could affect downtown businesses that operate after 5 p.m. and voted to classify the plaza outside of A Leap of Taste as a park, as well as several other smaller matters.
John Bellon, parks manager, presented a proposal for the plaza located in front of A Leap of Taste, at 905 Main St., to be classified as a park.
The plaza was built in 1996, according to Bellon, and is maintained now completely by Mike Hohman, who owns the Oregon Bank building.
Hohman maintains the flowers and decorations at the plaza, and also purchased the benches there. The plaza is a popular stop for passersby to stop to chat, rest or eat.
According to Bellon, the plaza will benefit by being classified as a park because it will be maintained partially by parks staff, although the department has arranged to allow Hohman to continue in much of the decoration and maintenance at his request.
“We think there are benefits for both the downtown and the parks by combining and partnering on this project moving forward,” Bellon said.
“I literally see more activity there than I do at Sugarman’s corner to be quite honest with you. There are always people there and it’s always clean, It’s always nice,” Councilman Dan Tofell said. “So I think this is a great idea.”
Some changes will occur at the plaza now that it has been adopted as a park, for example, smoking will not be allowed and it will be subject to public park hours of operation.
Councilman Todd Andres raised concern over the smoking limitation, wondering if business owners in the surrounding area will be affected.
Hohman assured the council that the businesses in the area are in favor of a smoking ban in the plaza.
The council was ultimately supportive of the resolution and unanimously voted to approve it.
Mayor Carol Westfall thanked Hohman for his dedication to maintaining the plaza.
“I appreciate the Christmas decorations and everything, it just really looks very nice,” she said.
“I love taking part in taking care of this park. It’s a privilege and it’s a pleasure,” Hohman said.
The other big item of the evening was an ordinance to change the language in the downtown parking city code.
Joe Wall, planning manager, presented the proposed change. Currently, businesses downtown are not required to purchase parking permits for employees if they work outside of regular business hours, from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m.
The change would end that distinction and require permits for all employees in the downtown area regardless of what hours they work.
An immediate concern from councilman Matt Dodson was whether or not the proposed change was publicized enough.
“I guess I’m surprised there are not people sitting in the audience on this,” he said.
Downtown parking has drawn many passionate responses from the public in past meetings. A new downtown parking model was introduced at a past meeting but has since been tabled for the time being. The city has decided to focus on enforcing the current model before implementing major changes.
Wall said this issue concerning employees who worked outside of regular business hours was considered to be a small change in language and was therefore not publicized like other parking matters.
Dodson wondered how this change could affect restaurants downtown.
“It’ll be interesting to see what happens as this goes forward,” Dodson said. “If it has any effect on any of them [restaurants], or what blowback there will be, I mean, hopefully, it’s not so much that it affects their bottom line.”
Ultimately, the motion to approve the ordinance for first reading only did not go through because it did not have a second.
“I would feel much more comfortable making the second if we knew that we had public input,” Tofell said.
The matter was ultimately tabled until the next meeting, to give more time for staff to seek input for the businesses that could be affected by the change.
■ The council unanimously voted to designate the area bounded by Upham Street, St. Francis Street, Lakeview and Lookout avenues as the Lookout Focus Area in the current biennium.
This means the city will focus on solving problems in that area, City Manager Nathan Cherpeski said it would be smaller problems like painting curbs and repairing fire hydrants.
■ The council unanimously approved two purchases for the Parks Division. One was $67,501.29 for a new mower from Turfstar Western. Funds will come from the Parks Division Capital Equipment Budget.
The other purchase was $38,131.32, with an allowance not to exceed $1,900 for automatic entry gates in Moore Park. The funding will mostly come from the Parks Division Capital Infrastructure budget and partially from leftover funds from the Veterans Memorial Park re-roof Project.
■ The council also unanimously voted to approve $24,114 with an allowance not to exceed $10,000 for a sewer maintenance project in Pacific Terrace.
■ Finally, the council unanimously approved the introduction of a $300 application fee for the Vertical Housing Tax Credit Program.