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May 11, 2014
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Editorial: Downtown merchants should be heard on parking plan

The city of Roseburg has done the right thing.

It’s going to have another discussion about its downtown Roseburg plan that calls for back-in angled parking on Oak and Washington avenues.

The city sent out a revised agenda on Friday for the meeting that will take place at 7 p.m. Monday at City Hall.

Roseburg city staff wisely realized that more discussion needs to take place after 76 downtown merchants signed a petition asking the city to stop the downtown parking and street modifications. Those merchants represent nearly 70 percent of the storefronts and professional businesses in the downtown core.

Since their livelihood will be affected more than anyone else’s by any changes to downtown streets and parking, their concerns must be considered.

We realize the city has offered plenty of opportunities for input, as the plan worked its way over a year’s time from a citizens advisory committee to the Public Works Commission to the City Council. It’s also true that the Downtown Roseburg Association has endorsed the plan.

But here’s what can happen in these scenarios: Someone on a committee comes up with a new idea. People are skeptical of it. So, the idea person does some research supporting the plan and presents it to the committee. The committee decides maybe it’s not such a bad idea after all and moves forward.

The merchants and general public, all of whom will be affected by the plan, are still back at the skeptical stage. They haven’t seen the research or been persuaded to see another point of view.

Since the Downtown Roseburg Association leaders are mystified at the sudden opposition to the plan, it seems they may be out of touch with the majority of the merchants. Or maybe some downtown business owners are still miffed over past conflicts they’ve had with one another or past city expenditures.

Lifelong Roseburg resident Marty Verbekmoes, who circulated the petition to more than 100 downtown merchants, heard plenty of viewpoints. In submitting his petition to the city leaders, he encouraged them to walk the downtown streets and hear their concerns for themselves.

Most are opposed to back-in angled parking and many are concerned about reducing one lane on Oak and Washington avenues. Their concerns, matched by many area residents, are valid.

We all want downtown Roseburg to thrive. The business district should be friendly to those in wheelchairs, on foot and on bicycles. But, it needs to accommodate vehicles as well.

The changes are planned to coincide with the realignment of Highway 138 between Interstate 5 and Diamond Lake Boulevard, and that corridor is used largely by vehicles.

At Monday’s meeting, the city councilors, who make up the Roseburg Urban Renewal Agency, have the option of gathering more information, choosing head-in angle parking, or sticking with their previous decision.

At the very least, the councilors should be sure they’re hearing from as many downtown merchants as possible and acting in their best interests.

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The News-Review Updated May 12, 2014 04:50PM Published May 11, 2014 12:04AM Copyright 2014 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.