After receiving a petition from incensed business owners, city officials decided to put a parking fee increase on hold until they have more time to discuss the plan with downtown stakeholders.
City council officials were scheduled to discuss a staff proposal to do away with the free two-hours of parking currently offered in both the north and south Mirror pond lots, but yanked the item from the agenda after roughly two dozen business owners and managers signed a petition that was submitted to the city through the Bend Chamber of Commerce.
City Manager Erik King said he wanted to postpone further discussion on the issue until the city has more time to dialogue with the impacted business, some of whom had said they felt blindsided by the sudden decision to do away with the two hours of free parking in the Mirror Pond lots adjacent to Drake Park. While the city would have maintained the existing program of free on-street park on Bond and Wall, many business owners felt that now was the wrong time to start charging for overflow parking - even at the modest rate of $1 per hour.
One manager that I spoke with who had several years of experience serving on downtown related issues for the city and downtown association said that business is so slow right now that parking is not a problem for patrons. The source suggested the city wait until spring, giving downtown business owners some time to adjust.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the story isn't the outcome, but rather the fact that a large group of business owners revolted against a strategy that had already been publicly endorsed by the Downtown Bend Business Association. The fact that they went around their own board and funneled the petition through the chamber, as city manager Erik King indicated at the meeting, only adds to the plotline. Could it be that the Downtowners board after recently convincing the city to extend a special tax to all downtown property owners to fund the organization is finding itself in the city's pocket, politically speaking?