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Jeb Bladine: Parking study puts light on challenges

There’s much to like about McMinnville’s Downtown Strategic Parking Management Plan, now pending city council adoption. At best, however, it is a good start … a framework for challenging work to come.

One of those challenges is for the city to engage Yamhill County in long-term discussions about county impacts on the development of downtown McMinnville.

The parking report sets this stage: “McMinnville is one of Oregon’s top destination cities with a bustling and historic downtown and a proven wine tourism backbone. With the extension of the Urban Renewal district and future developments, McMinnville is likely to face new pressure on its parking supply. The strategies above represent a toolbox of methods with which to manage the parking-related challenges and barriers that come with a successful downtown McMinnville.”

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Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

> See his column

In other words, Saddle Up, parking-upgrade proponents.

Rick Williams Consulting of Portland urges implementation of that toolbox through a Parking Work Group that keeps this report from being relegated to the shelf. The city, Williams advises, needs guiding principles for parking; more 2-hour parking stalls; upgrades to signage and striping; identification of shared-use opportunities with private lots; residential parking permit zones; upgrades to the parking garage; clarification of code impact on parking; and acquisition of a new major surface parking lot.

In a world of dynamic downtown development, Williams suggests establishing “a reasonable schedule of data collection to assess performance of the downtown parking supply.” If that infers need for more consulting services, so be it.

The good news is, McMinnville has key ingredients for parking progress: a professional data framework; a city staff with capacity and expertise; and a strong dose of public and business community encouragement for improvements.

One conspicuous but understandable omission in the report — and in initial city response — is mention of the need to invite Yamhill County to the table. That’s a job for the mayor and the council.

What is the real impact of county operations on downtown parking? What is the appropriate level of county financial participation in new solutions?

That discussion is just a prelude to an even more politically charged issue: What is the cost/benefit ratio to McMinnville from sprawling Yamhill County government expansion that land-locks downtown development and encroaches steadily into adjacent Old Town neighborhoods?

More parking access and improved traffic flow safety are enormously important factors — not just for the visitors streaming into town, but for local residents who want to enjoy their own downtown.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

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