Letter to the Editor | Business owners feel unheard on parking decisions

First of all, Mary and I would like to thank the Monroe Monitor & Valley News for the extensive coverage of the events concerning the Downtown Plaza Project over the past month.

We realize that this letter is in many ways "after the fact,GÇ¥ but we must make our feelings known. We cannot let this situation pass without chiming in on this divisive topic.

We have owned The Sky River Bakery (117 1/2 W. Main St.) in Downtown Monroe for 28 years and bring over 50,000 people to Monroe every year. We think that we are a big part of downtown and feel honored to share this distinction with other businesses GÇô such as Tijuana's and [Jeno's] who have been here as long as we have. And kudos to the myriad businesses that now make Monroe what it is today GÇô a real, working town.

The City had decided to pursue the grant-aided replacement of the parking areas and sidewalks with pervious (water-penetrable) concrete and the removal of the curbs to create a more "pedestrian-friendly' downtown. The "new lookGÇ¥ of downtown will most likely be a change welcomed by many and has the potential of presenting a fresh "streetscape' to Monroe with new lighting, planters and more.

The jury will be out for some time as to whether we can survive the loss of business created by the months-long construction to enjoy the changes. But [that] is not what this letter is most concerned about.

The Monroe City Council decided that this would be a great time to consider making a change in the parking scheme downtown. They had the opportunity to add parking and leave angle-in parking, but they voted to make half of downtown parallel parking, thus taking away spaces. We are at a total loss to understand why this change was made. To us, fewer parking spaces equates to fewer customers.

We are flabbergasted that five of the seven council members could not find an hour to join the mayor in visiting downtown to see where the changes would happen and talk to the people that would be most affected by this decision; in many cases, having the potential of creating financial hardship.

We are upset that the council decided to ignore the fact that the downtown business owners are overwhelmingly against the loss of any parking spaces.

We feel minimized by the fact that the council took no notice that many of these owners (and the majority of those citizens that spoke) talked against this change at the council meeting and the fact that we presented a petition with 577 signatures of business owners, shoppers, visitors and citizens from all walks of life, including ex-mayors, ex-council members, ex-city workers, ex-fire chiefs, teachers, Chamber of Commerce representatives from Snohomish and city workers from Redmond, Edmonds [and] Kirkland and a strong showing from the Monroe Latino community and hundreds more. [Editor's note: The petition now has more than 650 signatures.]

We feel misrepresented [because] the director of the Monroe Chamber of Commerce backs a change that 99 percent of the downtown business owners are dead set against. It is her prerogative to have an opinion, but not her position to strongly back this at the council meeting.

We feel sad that in our naivet+¬ and because of our optimism, we believed that representative government would work.

We feel confused that the much bandied about phrase "studies have shownGÇ¥ has led our "leadersGÇ¥ to believe that wider sidewalks are more important than people and customers. We have a real 28-year study that proves otherwise.

On a closing note GÇô we will remain optimistic and have proven ourselves to be survivors. We have weathered the terrible Coast To Coast hardware store fire, stock market crashes, super-high gas prices, low-carbo diet crazes, gluten-free mania and the coming of the great Walmart.

Whatever it takes, "Lord willing and the creek don't rise,GÇ¥ we will still be downtown business owners years from now. Where will the council members and their "visions' and the director of the Chamber of Commerce be? To whose future will her quote "change or dieGÇ¥ be most germane?

Thanks for listening and thanks for supporting us all these years.

Andrew Abt and Mary Thorgerson-á



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