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Downtown businesses frustrated by lack of City communication

Downtown businesses frustrated by lack of City communication

When the City changed the way it enforced 30-minute zones in downtown Salem in December, by suddenly issuing warnings to businesses who had used the spaces for decades, those businesses felt attacked.

“It reminds me of a child that got its toys taken away,” says Les McIinay, of Anderson McIlnay Florist, a downtown destination since 1958.  McIlnay was referring to the common business sentiment that the enforcement change occurred as a reaction, to and punishment for, the 2013 “No Parking Meter” petition generally supported by downtown establishments.

“Instead of saying, ‘we want downtown to prosper,’ they hurt us,” McIlnay says.  Another business owner, who spoke only if we didn’t print his name, told Salem Weekly that the 30-minute enforcement change came “out of nowhere, because the City wanted to install meters, and many businesses didn’t want that… The basis of this whole thing is retribution.”

Perhaps most frustrating for businesses is that they don’t know the rules for sure.  Neither they, nor Salem Weekly, have been able to get a clear statement of policy from city staff.  Stephen Perkins, co-owner of Cascade Baking Company, was “surprised” at the new enforcement as well, but he now believes that the city may have reversed itself on the matter.  He’s uncertain, because he hasn’t heard anything official.  But he’s been parking in 30-minute spots since the initial December outcry, and has yet to get a ticket.

“The biggest bugaboo,” Perkins says, is that we don’t hear anything from the City.  We didn’t get any warning before the change… some of us just started getting tickets and didn’t know where it came from.”

Perkins hasn’t heard officially that he can now park in the 30-minute spots – but he hasn’t heard otherwise, either.

“I’d just like to know what’s right or wrong,” he says.  “I just wish the City would tell us; are they going to enforce it or not?”

Small downtown businesses may have a few legal options.  It is possible, based on Perkins’ experience, that they may be able to use existing 30-minute parking zones again.  It is clear that they may use nearby alleys, which may be too far for them to carry heavy distances.  They also have the right to use a lesser-known option; acting like larger commercial vehicles and using the street to load and unload – blocking traffic for up to 30-minutes with flashers on, as UPS trucks do.

For this final approach, city code doesn’t  require a logo painted on the vehicle, only an 8 ½” by 11” sign with letters at least 2” high, placed on the dash to identify the business.   Although nothing in city law specifically allows commercial vehicles to park in traffic, a FedEx Salem dispatcher says that 30-minutes is “a golden time that’s been understood for more than 30 years that I’ve been working here.”

Perkins says he’s been parking in the street this way for years, “I can’t afford not to,” but never knows if he may get a ticket because enforcement on this, too, might change.

He expresses the hope of many merchants that the City will communicate better with downtown businesses in the future.  “Officers on the street telling you something, is not the same as a City official giving people an official notice.”

6 Comments

  1. In the picture above the business owner stopped his car in the middle of the street to unload his junk. What a nice guy, holding people up. Think of all the gallons of gasoline wasted because of him.

  2. Salemite – Our fine city officials have made it illegal and untenable for him to park in that open parking space. So blame THEM. He has the choice of being fined by the city or inconveniencing some people, which costs him nothing. What would YOU do?

    I find it a bit disturbing that the author of this article didn’t do better homework on what the laws and ordinances are. It’s pretty simple and doesn’t take much time. One statement in particular belies her ignorance . . . “Although nothing in city law specifically allows commercial vehicles to park in traffic, . . . .” So just what IS city law regarding the parking of vehicles loading/unloading? Or in traffic lanes? Or does the city defer to state law? Before the city “allows” something it must first make it illegal, and then write some exemption or exception into the law to “allow” it. If something isn’t illegal, it is “allowed” by default. Period!

    Parking in a traffic lane for loading or unloading is very specifically allowed by state law in an exemption to the prohibited parking statute, whether the vehicle is a commercial vehicle or not. It is done many times on a daily basis in the downtown area. I suggest someone ask the city how many citations it has issued to those vehicles over the last 5 years. If the answer is anything other than zero, I will be very surprised.

    If there is no city ordinance prohibiting loading/unloading from a traffic lane, I suggest downtown business owners take advantage of the state law that specifically permits it. And if there is a city ordinance prohibiting it, and no exemption for loading/unloading, I suggest someone make a project of inundating the city with complaints every time it occurs. If nothing else, it may result in some kind of statement from the city about where it stands on the issue.

    In my mind, the easiest and most sensible thing the city could do would be to write an exemption into city ordinance that would allow businesses to temporarily use any available parking space for loading/unloading. But the Salem City Council has a lousy track record of doing things that make sense. It would be out of character for them.

    I had lunch in downtown Bend a couple of days ago. There are no parking meters in Bend. Bend is not the tiny city it was 40 years ago. It is a bustling city with a very busy downtown core, and almost no vacant storefronts. I had no trouble finding a parking space within a half block of the restaurant. Salem could learn a few things from Bend. Actually, Salem could learn a few things from most any sixth grader.

    And by the way, any communication between the city and downtown businesses is likely to be one-way.
    **

  3. Just because it’s legal (think big 18 wheelers delivering large loads) doesn’t mean some small businesses owners should be acting like that. How about being thoughtful and respectful. Why not get a commercial loading zone permit? Unloading junk at non peak hours.

    Thoughtful and respectful would be nice.

  4. WHAT commercial loading zone permit? Check with the city of Salem, and I think you’ll find there is no such thing. The choice is either park in the traffic lane, which is legal, or park in the open parking space, which is ILLEGAL.

  5. JIM PRICE – check with the city of Salem and they will tell you there is such a thing. I had one for years for my business. That’s what those commercial loading zone spaces are for. They are all over downtown.

    My point is that there are a lot of ways to move you wares without stopping your car in the middle of a single lane of traffic. Some folks are just happy being passive aggressive to unrelated people.

    Does the hippy rock crystal guy care about the Peoria he’s holding up in the photo?

  6. Peoria was supposed to be people..

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