Parking decision still contentious among businesses

Monroe Mayor Geoffrey Thomas and Councilmember Jim Kamp spent several hours touring businesses in Monroe's downtown core on Saturday, April 11, notifying business owners and their staff of an open house that will take place this week.

The open house will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 16, at Monroe City Hall (806 W. Main St.) in council chambers.-á

City staff will be on hand to answer questions regarding the upcoming Main Street Plaza Project. They are inviting local business owners to stop by with questions and concerns.-á

The open house will also feature illustrations depicting a new city gateway concept that would be on West Main and Madison streets. Four possible design options will be presented. -á

Still in the early planning stages, the gateway project wouldn't start construction for several years.

Main Street project

Construction on the Main Street Plaza Project is slated to begin on Monday, April 20. The first phase of the project, which will involve the portion of East Main Street between Lewis and South Ferry streets and Lewis Street from 300 feet south of Fremont to the alleyway north of Main Street, is expected to be completed no later than June 30.-á

Businesses are invited to attend the meeting to get clarification on the order of construction and how the sidewalk reconstruction will impact their businesses. The project does not include any alterations to the roadway; it involves the sidewalks and parking areas only.

Plans for the parking areas have become a significant concern for business owners and residents alike. Initially, the city proposed an angle-in parking arrangement identical to what currently exists, but during discussion, several Monroe City Council members indicated interest in converting to parallel parking. After analysis, it was determined that the city would lose a total of 18 parking stalls by converting to parallel parking.-á

Once the second option was presented, the city faced immediate backlash from business owners who were opposed to the idea of losing parking spaces. An anti-parallel parking petition began circulating, gathering hundreds of signatures. The mayor then asked city staff to come up with a compromise, which resulted in parking option three, which included angle-in parking on the north side of Main Street, with parallel parking on the south.-á

The third option included 15-foot sidewalks, a feature that the council felt would facilitate outdoor dining, outdoor merchandise displays and a more pedestrian-friendly environment. The Monroe City Council had a public hearing on March 31 to hear testimony before making its decision. Twenty business owners and residents provided testimony, mostly in favor of option 1, which retained the angle-in parking arrangement.-á

But some members of the council felt that, to achieve downtown revitalization, it was time to try something completely new and different. In addition to the wider-sidewalks, the plaza project will include pedestrian bulb-outs at the ends of each block, shortening the distance that pedestrians will need to travel to cross the street. Curbs will be removed along Main Street, resulting in a sidewalk area that is flush with the street. Lit and unlit bollards will be added for additional structure, safety and ambiance. -á

After listing to approximately 75 minutes of public testimony, the council voted four to three in favor of implementing option three.-á

Community still unhappy

At one point on Saturday, Thomas was met with open hostility regarding the outcome of the March 31 council meeting, despite the fact that he did not vote on the parking decision.-á

The City of Monroe is governed by a mayor-council form of government. While the mayor's duties include preparing-áthe budget and presiding over city council meetings, the mayor himself is not a voting member of the legislative body. Occasionally, if one of the seven council members is absent and a vote is taken that results in a tie, the mayor may be called upon to break the tie, but this is contingent on the type of vote. Per Washington state RCW, the mayor is not allowed to cast a tie-breaker vote with respect to the passage of any ordinance.-á

And even on actions where a tie-breaker vote is permissible, the council can move to rescind the action if they are inclined to do so.-á

Kamp also took some heat on Saturday, even though he voted against incorporating parallel parking on Main Street.

Two Monroe building owners expressed favorable opinions regarding the upcoming changes. Canh Pham, who owns buildings at 114 N. Lewis Street and 107 W. Main St., said that he is looking forward to having wider sidewalks and a more pedestrian-friendly environment.

"I love that atmosphere GÇô I think it's a great idea,GÇ¥ Pham said. "I love the fact that we can put tables and chairs outside.GÇ¥-á -á

Dan LaFleur owns the building at 211 S. Lewis St., which is home to the Beverage Stop, Northwest Complete Auto Care and Speed Secrets. He is in the process of completing cosmetic enhancements to his building in anticipation of the upcoming revitalization project. He said that he looks forward to possibly working with the city to provide parking during weekend events.

Green Grooming (124 W. Main St.) owner Shannon Green just opened up shop in Monroe in March. Although concerned about being on the side of the street slated for parallel parking, she said she is happy to be in Monroe. Green recently moved from Snohomish, where she operated her pet grooming business for seven years. -á

"It's a wonderful town,GÇ¥ Green said. "We've felt so welcome here.GÇ¥-á

The second phase of the plaza project, which will include West Main Street from Lewis to Blakeley streets, is scheduled to begin at the beginning of July. It is anticipated that the entire project will be complete by the Fair Days Parade in late August.

Thomas advocated for Monroe's downtown businesses on Saturday, and is hopeful that the revitalization efforts will be successful.

"It's about wrapping our arms around the downtown,GÇ¥ Thomas said. "Because there's a lot of wonderful things down here.GÇ¥


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