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Permanent downtown Bend parklet program proposed; fee is a matter of debate

(Update: Adding video, councilor comments)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The city of Bend last year created a temporary parklet program for restaurants and others to use downtown sidewalks and curbside parking spaces under an emergency declaration during the pandemic. That program is likely to become permanent, but a proposed fee for businesses wanting to take part is still a matter of debate among councilors.

City councilors got a staff presentation Wednesday evening and discussed the planned commercial parklet license program.

The initial program was an effort to aid struggling businesses so they could remain open and operational amid strict state occupancy limits.

Under the proposed permanent parklet program, businesses looking to get or keep a parklet would have to pay a $255 application fee, then $100 a month for each parking space taken up by the parklet.

But some councilors, including Anthony Broadman and Melanie Kebler, said Wednesday the suggested fee structure could be a hurdle for business owners.

Broadman says he wants a more targeted approach that could be based on factors like square footage when it comes to the fee structure.

"We know the value people put on being able to go to our wonderful downtown retailers and downtown restaurants. They're willing to wait for an hour to go into a restaurant but how long are you willing to wait for a parking spot? Not very long," Broadman said. "You're going circle or you're going to go to the (city parking) garage. So I would like a more targeted approach to a fee, if any, either based on square footage or have one parking spot be included." 

Broadman added that the benefits to business owners are far greater than other parking space uses.

"The benefit of having 20 people go through a parklet far outweighs a construction vehicle being parked," Broadman said.

Mayor Sally Russell says she believes it makes sense to have fees, because it is private use of public parking spaces.

A license can be renewed starting in November for the following calendar year, and licenses will be non-transferable to new small downtown business owners.

According to the city, a commercial parklet license will be issued for a period of one calendar year, beginning on Jan. 1 and ending on Dec. 31 of the permitted year.

Out of the 1,800 parking spaces, just 5% (90) of all on-street downtown parking spaces will be available for parklet use.

Licenses will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis, while available.

Councilors also held a second reading and a formal, unanimous vote to enact a controversial ban on the sale and use of fireworks within the city.

But that did not stop some in opposition. like TNT Fireworks' Regional Manager Jason Trout. from voicing his concerns.

He and several nonprofits in Bend who benefit from the sale of fireworks have recently pleaded wotj councilors to delay the vote.

"We're asking that you delay your decision and allow input from not only the industry but the community which has been censored and left out up to this point," Trout said.

Trout added that many who oppose the ban feel ignored by councilors.

"There are many alternatives to an outright ban, which the council continues to ignore by not opening up a dialogue and addressing the stakeholders and the nonprofits that will suffer greatly due to an outright ban of fireworks within the city limits," Trout said.

The city says if anyone has fireworks, legal or illegal, that they would like to surrender, they can do so by contacting Bend Fire and Rescue to make arrangements at 541-322-6386.

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Alec Nolan

Alec Nolan is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Alec here.


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