Parking fine, sidewalk blocking, panhandling ordinances up for discussion

How much should you pay if you park beyond the allotted time? In the city of Ashland it has been $11, a rate believed to have been established by a municipal court judge about 30 years ago. 

The Ashland City Council on Tuesday is expected to pave the way to hike the fine to $26 by approving the second reading of an ordinance clarifying that the council has the authority to set the rate. The council is expected to officially consider the increase at a subsequent meeting, possibly as early as March 15.

Approval Tuesday evening would, however, lower the amount owed in parking tickets before a boot can be put on a car to $150 (the amount now is $240 for unpaid tickets) and to consider vehicles abandoned if they don’t move within 72 hours of being given a notice. 

The toughness on tickets comes from a staff suggestion to make the parking codes easier to interpret in the record and while at it, increase fines, which as City Administrator Dave Kanner says, are more like fines in Medford. It’s a hard sell to some residents who see Ashland as more dependant on tourism and a steep ticket and lack of parking could be off putting. It’s also a big increase in one step, as one City Council member expressed.

The council is also scheduled to continue a discussion of possible new ordinances regarding hindering pedestrian passage and soliciting contributions (or panhandling) on downtown sidewalks. Both are in response to an increased number of public complaints in 2015 about reports of behavior by so-called travelers and homeless street people. Any actual ordinance would be acted on at a later meeting.

Not on the agenda but expected to come up during public comment are plans for a new home planned at 85 Winburn WayAshland resident George Kramer wrote an open letter to the City Council praising the plans for the home but saying it’s in the "wrong place."

The roughly 2,900-square-foot home would go on privately owned, residentially zoned property amidst a row of city structures including city planning offices, Pioneer Hall, the Ashland Community Center and ice skating rink. Property owner Bryan DeBoer, chief executive officer at Lithia Motors and longtime resident of the area, says he’s always wanted to move back to Ashland and be near town. He says he and his family plans on living there for the next decades of their lives.

Construction would involve clearing the lot of some 18 trees, according to public records, but DeBoer says he intends to plant some mature trees to take their place. Two trees on the property, both older and larger oaks, are already dead and a hazard, according to DeBoer.

Approval of the home plan went through the Tree Commission and the Planning Commission. It did not require City Council approval as the area is already zoned for a single-family home.

There was discussion of changing the zoning in 2010 when a retail building was considered, but the idea was put on hold when requirements to create parking in other areas of town was rejected by the proposed business owner. At that time a more permanent zone change was considered but never pushed through.

The council meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 1, in the Council Chamber at 1175 E. Main Street. Proceedings are cablecast live on Channel 9 (or 180) and streamed online at rvtv.sou.edu.

Email Ashland freelance writer Julie Akins at akinsj@sou.edu and follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/@julieakins.

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