Restaurant near Lithia Park approved - with conditions

The Ashland City Council has approved a 189-seat restaurant next to Lithia Park, but with conditions — including $250,000 in parking impact fees — that could cause the couple proposing it to walk away.

The City Council discussed the issue Tuesday night, then held a special meeting late Wednesday afternoon to make a decision.

Councilors voted to charge $250,000 in parking fees because the restaurant wouldn't be required to provide new on-site parking. The money would go to pay for future parking downtown.

Councilors also decided that the building could not be used as a medical office in the future because that use would cause too many traffic and parking problems from patients going to and from appointments. It could be used for professional offices, service businesses such as salons, churches, a theater, non-chain restaurants and shops, and assorted other uses. It couldn't be used as a hotel or as a residence.

Consultants working on behalf of the restaurant's backers, Jon and Esther Phelps, said on Tuesday night that parking fees were not acceptable, and eliminating possible medical office uses also was not acceptable.

"It's very strange being given such bald ultimatums," Mayor John Stromberg said on Tuesday night.

While businesses such as restaurants are financially risky, a medical practice is a business that could afford to buy the building and use it, city staff said.

After Wednesday's approval of the project with conditions, the Phelps' consultants said they needed to talk with the couple about whether the project would move forward.

A consultant has yet to return a phone call from the Daily Tidings about the couple's decision.

"I hope it moves forward, because I think it would be an excellent project," Councilor Greg Lemhouse said.

While he is concerned about the size of the restaurant and the parking problems it could create, Lemhouse said it would help create construction and restaurant jobs, boosting the local economy.

Although councilors voted unanimously to approve the project, some councilors opposed some of the conditions.

Councilor Dennis Slattery, who took office in January, said Ashland's planning process is legendary in the business community for being onerous.

"This whole process has lived in legend. I'm seeing it up close. It's really ugly," he said.

Slattery was joined only by Lemhouse in opposing the parking fees and the ban on using the building for a medical practice.

Councilor Carol Voisin, who was among the majority of councilors who supported the various conditions and restrictions, said councilors have a responsibility to address parking issues and protect Lithia Park.

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or

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