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Driveway Proposed Through Carousel Parking Lot

At 5:30 on August 26, Salem City Council will discuss whether to allow a private developer the right to use the Riverfront Carousel parking lot, at Riverfront Park, as a thoroughfare to his proposed 118-unit apartment complex.  A public hearing on the matter will follow.

The property in question is owned by Mountain West Investment Corporation, a company run by Salem’s Larry Tokarski.  The proposed development, called, “The Residences,” would be located on the former truck parking lot of the old Boise Cascade factory, southwest of downtown, just inches from the grassy acreage of Riverfront Park with views of the Willamette River.

It is a premium location, but has long-known access difficulties.  Tokarski owns other adjacent land that could provide access from Commercial Street, but is prohibited from using it in this way by Oregon Department of Transportation, which is opposed to any new crossings of the railroad tracks in that area.

The developer was aware of the issue prior to his 2007 purchase.
This leaves Front Street as the entry point, and sharing a road used by thousands of Salemites every year as the only access to the Riverfront Park Carousel.

To help, Tokarski would reconfigure the Carousel parking lot, building a 22-foot wide roadway through it and into his property.

If the City Council agrees, The Residences’ estimated 200 residents and their estimated 179 cars, will use the same road currently used by parkgoers – to drive to and from their homes.  Critics are concerned that the significantly increased traffic will place children at risk and cause congestion.

The proposal before the City Council says that the number of Carousel parking spots, after the construction of the road, would add nine new stalls, which Tokarski would donate.  It is still unclear if these nine additional spots would be placed on city land or his own.

Riverfront Park is open 365 days a year. The Carousel is open every day but Thanksgiving.

The developer is also requesting a ten-year property tax abatement for the economic value “The Residences” apartments would ultimately bring Salem, and for the way it brings urban living to downtown.

At the same meeting, City Council will discuss Tarkoski’s request to grant another easement for emergency vehicles.  He is asking to utilize pedestrian paths that currently go through the park.  He hopes to widen and rebuild them so they can accommodate hook-and-ladder fire trucks.

Code requires that emergency vehicles have access to the proposed apartment complex for those occasions that the Carousel entrance might be blocked by a train.

The above reflects information provided at press time.  Check with the City of Salem for updates or changes.

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One Comment

  1. The Oregon DOT cannot prohibit a new at-grade crossing over a railroad. The city has the right under law to apply to the DOT for a new crossing. ODOT may object and the railroad may object, but the applicant has the right to a hearing, and a right to appeal the decision to higher courts. Given the serious safety concerns involved in putting traffic through a small parking lot designed to cater to families, and to issues with increasing traffic over a crossing that has no queuing space for vehicles, the city must push for another option. Safety must be the highest priority–not the cost to the developer.

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