Monmouth examines its downtown parking

MONMOUTH - Officials are considering ways to increase the amount of available parking in the downtown area in the next few years.

MONMOUTH - Officials are considering ways to increase the amount of available parking in the downtown area in the next few years.

A probable option is ramping up the level of enforcement on streets with two-hour parking limits.

The Monmouth City Council discussed some of the recommendations of a task force created to examine parking issues during its Feb. 5 work session.

Studies by the Oregon Department of Transportation and a private engineering firm, performed last year, showed there isn't an overall shortage of parking downtown.

But there are areas where spaces are scarce during the week, such as Monmouth Avenue near Western Oregon University and the Main Street Park block, said Mayor John Oberst.

"We could have a problem if we get more development in empty lots," Oberst said. "We want to have plans in mind if we have to tighten up."

Monmouth's citizen task force offered parking proposals including turning Knox and Warren streets into one-way couplets, adding diagonal spaces there and forming agreements with businesses to make their lots available for public use.

"If we want to make this community more active and get them to come into downtown, we need to be able to put them somewhere," said Bill Foster, task force member.

The one-way option wasn't recommended in either the ODOT analysis or a study performed by Portland-based Kittelson & Associates last summer. And at last week's work sessions, some councilors reiterated opposition to the idea.

Most agreed on improved enforcement in the future. Many downtown spots carry a two-hour limit that the city doesn't actively enforce because of lack of police manpower, Oberst said.

Councilor Ben Meyer said a number of student and faculty commuters to Western shun campus parking lots in favor of leaving their vehicles along Monmouth Avenue between Jackson and Main streets, or on Church Street.

Suggestions for enforcement ranged from having police spend a few hours on random days doing parking enforcement, creating a part-time parking officer position, or even partnering with the university's public safety office to cover violations.

City Manager Scott McClure said handing over authority for city matters to another agency would be problematic. Western physical plant director Tom Neal, who was present at the meeting, agreed.

"That would be a public relations nightmare for us," Neal said, "if we have our public safety officers going off campus and ticketing community members."

Another task force suggestion for future parking involves removing landscaping strips from one side of Jackson Street and creating angled parking.

The report stated it was feasible, though "increased parking capacity and loss of landscaping may be considered significant negative impacts to neighboring properties."

Officials ultimately directed the task force and city staff to bring forth proposals and costs at a future meeting.

In other city news:

City Council unanimously approved increasing the funds it provides to the Monmouth Business Association for operating the Music in the Park series during the summer.

Monmouth foots most of the total budget for the event, which will grow from $3,500 to $5,000 to cover rising expenses and to book bigger acts.

The city contributed $1,500 from its park department grant program and $600 from Monmouth Power & Light last year. The city will now provide $2,500 generated through its transient occupancy tax.

The council approved a $2,500 contribution for a pilot veteran assistance program - Veterans Night at the Elks - that recently began in Independence.

Dallas, Independence, and Polk County are also each contributing $2,500 to cover rent for usage of the Elks Lodge in Independence one day a week through the rest of the year.

The Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs has provided $7,000.


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