To the Citizens of Vernonia

Posted by Dale Webb, Councilor on Feb 12, 2020

The City Council of Vernonia is deliberating a revision to our Off Street Parking ordinance. The revision was brought forward to the City Council from the Vernonia Planning Commission in an attempt to solve an issue that is hampering the ability of our downtown store front businesses from expanding or opening a business that requires off street parking. We have an ordinance that states that a business must provide off street parking if it meets certain requirements in our code. The problem is that this is not a feasible option for most downtown store front businesses, due to lack of space. To help facilitate growth in our downtown businesses the city has proposed allowing the use, for a fee, of the city owned flood buy out properties as parking spaces that would allow the businesses to meet the code requirements. Two parking lots have been identified, one is the paved parking lot across from the old West Oregon Electric Coop office and the other is where the WOEC office sat. A cost analysis was completed and forwarded in the recommendation from the Planning Commission to the City Council for adoption.

There have been suggestions to simply get rid of the off street parking requirement. The issue with that is three fold; first some businesses in our community have expended funds to provide off street parking, so there is a question of parity with current businesses or future ones. Second, without an off-street parking requirement a business could move into downtown Vernonia and set up a business with many employees, this could end up taking up all the readily available parking in town. Thirdly, an existing business with off street parking may decide to sell out and in the process sell the parking lot for development. The last two scenarios would make the city look more like Portland, which is not what is desired for Vernonia.

The City of Vernonia could just allow businesses to use the cities parking lots at no cost, but then the upkeep and maintenance would fall solely on our streets fund. I think all would agree there are streets that need paved and cared for in our town, this extra burden would cause delays and shortcomings in our streets program. For those that are not aware; the city now has a streets inventory and a path forward to get all our poor condition streets repaved in the next four years. It is not fair for the citizens of Vernonia to shoulder the entire burden when customers to our businesses include those who live around us and those who are tourists. Having the businesses contribute to the up keep and long term maintenance of these parking spaces would be born by all that use the businesses.

The City of Vernonia is still going to carry a large share of the burden of these parking spaces. The formula that is being used to calculate the charge for each space assumes that all of the parking spaces would be filled upon enactment and that simply will not be the case. The amount for each space has been challenged and the city council will be deliberating the space cost if we move forward with adoption of the ordinance. The current proposed cost per space is $83 per year, which breaks down to 23 cents a day.

It should also be pointed out that the City has worked with recent businesses to allow them to expand/remodel with a signed agreement that they would secure off street parking spaces as defined by this code amendment. The cities proposal for them to pay for use of the cities parking lots is one option of several available to businesses. It is the intent that the businesses that are paying for parking spaces would require their employees and themselves to use the spaces, thus helping solve some of the parking issues in front of high traffic areas.

As City Councilors we are not allowed to discuss these matters on social media without violating state laws. Therefore, we encourage you to come to our public meetings so we can hear from our citizens.

Sincerely yours,
Vernonia City Councilor, Dale Webb