Port Angeles council expands off-street parking options for businesses

PORT ANGELES — City lawmakers have provided another option for business owners on the outskirts of downtown Port Angeles to meet off-street parking requirements.

The City Council voted 6-1 Tuesday — with Michael Merideth opposed — to allow those within 1,000 feet of the Parking and Business Improvement Area to make PBIA assessment payments in lieu of parking requirements in existing code.

“This is another tool that business owners can use to figure out how to solve the parking needs for their customers and their staff,” Council Member Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin said before the vote.

“This is not a requirement that anyone do. We’re not changing the boundary of the PBIA or making people pay PBIA fees. We’re giving people outside of the PBIA within a certain distance the option of basically buying into the benefits of the PBIA.”

Downtown district

More than 150 downtown business owners pay a square-footage fee averaging about $200 a year to fund the PBIA, which supports the Port Angeles Downtown Association.

The downtown district extends from Valley Street on the west to just past Lincoln Street on the east. It is bordered by Port Angeles Harbor on the north and the downtown bluff on the south.

City staff had recommended that the allowance for PBIA opt-ins be extended 500 feet from the district boundary for consistency with other parts of the code.

“In plain speak, staff sees this as a way to allow property and business owners to essentially enter into a cooperative parking agreement, which are already allowed per our code, but it opens up the public parking lots into that possibility,” Allyson Brekke, community and economic development director, told the council Tuesday.

Schromen-Wawrin suggested that the opt-in boundary be extended to 1,000 feet of the district to accommodate more businesses.

“I actually think the 1,000 feet makes a ton of sense when you go east,” Council member Mike French said.

French, a downtown business owner, said Little Devil’s Lunchbox draws customers from downtown parking areas.

The popular eatery at 315 E. First St. is outside the PBIA but within the 1,000-foot buffer.

“People will walk all the way up the hill for their burritos, trust me,” French said.

French had proposed to eliminate off-street parking requirements for new homes and businesses in the entire city.

That proposal was rejected in a 4-3 council vote Sept. 3.

In Tuesday’s meeting, French suggested changing the boundary of the PBIA.

“I think that what we’re doing here is a Band-Aid on something that is fundamentally broken,” French said of the city’s parking code.

“I have no problem with the 500-foot boundary for this but we are not being bold. We are not doing something that makes logical sense in the big scheme of things, and I think that we should.”

Merideth questioned the need to draw concentric circles around the PBIA and extend the opt-in zone into the industrial area west of downtown.

“I have a hard time conceptualizing that we have a lack of parking anywhere in Port Angeles at the moment,” Merideth said.

“If somebody wants to go up there to Peabody Street, I’m thinking there’s ample parking somewhere up there for them to park.”

Meredith said existing businesses on the fringes of the PBIA have already paid for parking.

“Do they get a refund? No,” Merideth said.

Giving options

Mayor Sissi Bruch said the 1,000-foot allowance is simply an option for those who want to join the PBIA.

“And the folks who don’t want to participate don’t have to,” Bruch said.

“For that reason, to be more inclusive, I would [favor] 1,000 feet.”

Earlier in the meeting, Storm King Athletic Club owner Sean Johnson said parking requirements had been “challenging” for his crossfit business, which is moving from its downtown location to a renovated space at 224 E. First St.

The new gym is within 1,000 feet of the PBIA and eligible for the cooperative parking agreement.

“As I’ve kind of navigated it, it’s very difficult to meet the regulations that are currently with the city right now,” Johnson said during a public comment period.

“So the PBIA expansion would be a good first step, and then I hope you kind of empower the city to look at the current ordinances out there and make recommendations for adjustments in the future.”

In other code-related action, the council voted unanimously to direct staff to prepare a November discussion on possible code changes.

At that work session, the council will discuss the possibility of re-prioritizing its strategic plan to make updates, revisions or large-scale changes to municipal code.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected] dailynews.com.

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