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10/31/2012 2:19:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
Photo by Kacie Thrift
The parking lot at 131 Cottage Ave. may be blocked off to public access after the Cashmere Chamber of Commerce ended their lease with Woodridge Construction to keep it open as a parking lot for downtown businesses. The owners of the lot proposed the City of Cashmere take over the lease but council members decided it wasn’t of enough importance to pay $6,000 a year for.
No to downtown parking lot lease
Kacie Thrift
Staff Writer



Recently, staff from Woodridge Construction & Development, LLC contacted the Cashmere city staff with the opportunity to lease out a parking lot located at 131 Cottage Ave.

A letter addressed to the Cashmere City Council, presented by Woodridge Construction & Development, said the parking lot on the corner of Cottage Avenue and Woodring Street is a highly visible parking lot representing convenient, central access to many businesses. The letter suggested a busy parking lot gives the appearance of vibrancy and growth potential.

This parking lot has shown heavy volume at 75 percent capacity on multiple occasions during different times of day or days of the week, according to the letter. This piece of property has been leased in the past to be used as a parking lot for downtown businesses.

Previously, this parking lot was leased out to the Cashmere Chamber of Commerce but the lease was terminated on July 1, 2012.

The letter from Woodridge Construction said the company purchased the property at 131 Cottage Ave. as an investment with intent to develop commercial space. The company staff still wants to develop the property but the plans have been put on hold until spring of 2013.

"We propose a rent amount of $500 per month with the city to provide general maintenance and snow removal and the city to provide a certificate of Insurance naming Woodridge Construction and Development, LLC, as an additional insured," the letter proposed.

A few members on the council openly spoke about the idea of leasing the parking lot and seemed to disagree with the proposal.

City Councilman, Jim Fletcher said the parking lot has come before the council multiple times. The last time was eight years ago when the Cashmere Chamber of Commerce took over. Fletcher said, at that time, the council felt the city did not desire to own or rent the property.

"We thought it was more important to be developed for commercial use," Fletcher said. "But we have new members [on the council] if we want to re-visit it."

Sharon Woodridge, with Woodridge Construction, said she wanted to revisit what has happened when the property was blocked off in the past.

Councilman John Bryant said, even if Woodridge was going to block off the parking lot, he had issues with the city agreeing to the lease.

"The majority of people who use that parking lot are business owners, unfortunately the same ones that are rattling their swords and sabers talking about the lack of parking downtown," Bryant said. "It's the business owners that are using it or the business owners I see parking right out in front of their businesses denying access to their businesses to their customers."

Bryant said he is not in favor of the city renting the property but he hopes to see Woodridge Construction develop it. He said development of the property would be great for downtown.

Derek Knutsen, councilman, said because he doesn't see all the parking between lots being used he agrees with Bryant.

"This might mean people will have to walk a little further to get places in Cashmere, but not very far at all," Knutsen said.

Bryant said the Cashmere Chamber of Commerce terminated their month-to-month lease with Woodridge Construction because they stopped getting support from local businesses. When the parking lot first became available, many businesses in the community made a joint effort along with the city to help pay the lease. When the chamber decided to opt-out of their lease it was because businesses stopped helping with the lease once they decided there was no need for the lot.

"For me, the main thing is what I found at the chamber, the businesses themselves didn't want to support paying for it. At that point, I don't see why the city would support paying for it," said Councilman Skip Moore. "If this was city parking to get into city hall or to go to the center [Riverside Center] I think that would be important. But simply to support a parking lot for the businesses who have told us when to support it, I have a hard time spending any funds on that."

Bryant said the few businesses that still thought the parking lot was a good idea, did not want to take the bill on their own. Also, the new proposal is more than the previous lease with the chamber. Bryant said he believed the lease used to be $3,600 a year and it has increased to $6,000 a year.

Currently the parking lot has remained open to the public at the expense and liability of Woodridge Construction. The letter from Woodridge Construction said they plan on eliminating the parking lot if the city doesn't accept the proposal.

"It's unfortunate the business community doesn't need the parking lot. Personally, I would like to see it stay the parking lot but they [chamber] don't think it's necessary for the success of the businesses. The chamber has had the parking lot for a number of years at least seven or eight years and they finally determined it wasn't vital to downtown," Bryant said.

After further discussion, the Cashmere City Council agreed to not accept the proposal for leasing the parking lot.

Kacie Thrift may be reached at 782-3781 or reporter@cashmerevalleyrecord.com.





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