What image for Prineville businesses?
Citizens oppose city's design review standards proposal
In January, City of Prineville officials initiated a design review draft with members of the community volunteering to create the plan which would add restrictions to the exterior appearance of new and renovated buildings.
The first draft was introduced Tuesday evening at a public hearing, which generated an overwhelming response from local business owners firmly against the proposed plan.
"During the meeting, a good representation of our business community showed up and voiced their opinion," business owner Hank Simmons said. "Nobody spoke in favor of it. Not one person. There was nobody that I talked to at the meeting, and there was definitely nobody that spoke during the meeting that said anything but `Don't do it'."
"The commission knew going in that they were not going to make a decision that night," City Planner Scott Edelman said. "They've gone through several workshops with staff for several months now trying to put together this draft. This was the time to get it out and see how it looks to the community. It was purely a time for them to listen."
As the draft is written, ambiguity is found throughout the 20-page document, leading business owners to be concerned about its permanence.
"There are conflicts all the way through the ordinance," Land Use Consultant Dick Brown said. "They're talking about having a committee of five people. As those committee members change, the interpretation of the ordinance is going to change. So what may be acceptable today to the committee may not be acceptable tomorrow."
"The purpose of that was meant to make the process more flexible for developers and business owners," Edelman added. "It turns out there were some very good points that were made about it. One board one year, they might be one way. Another year it might be different. There's some inconsistency. When they're investing that much money, that kind of inconsistency is really worrisome - especially if it would require them to come back with several different designs. So they said that they would rather see the set standards in place, so they would know what to expect."
Another point of contention was the regulation of colors. The draft orders that paint colors be of "low reflectance, subtle, neutral or earth tones".
"The current draft talks about certain colors that can't be used at all - fluorescents, really bright colors, some pastels," Edelman continued. "It also talks about colors that are limited to trim, like really dark colors like black and dark purple, so they don't have these deep, dark buildings. There were several people who mentioned that they didn't like the idea of the city telling them which colors were appropriate. So the commission will consider that and see if they want to scale back on that or take it out completely."
"It's up to the business owner. Do they think that lime green is going to bring their customer in? If not, then they won't do it," Pine Theater owner Oniko Mehrabi said. "People care about the bottom line - making money."
"We are individuals. We have our own individual spirits. Our own individual likes and wants and nothing galls me more than somebody else telling me what I should want and like," Simmons said. "I don't tell you what kind of dress to wear, so don't tell me what kind of shirt to wear."
Simmons, who is currently constructing a building, went on to say that his structure will look nice because that is his desire, not because anyone told him it should be that way.
The debate continued with the possible financial implications which business owners would have to secure.
"I understand what they are trying to do. They're trying to beautify Prineville, which Prineville needs, but it should never be mandatory," Mehrabi said. "It should always be that person's own pride in their building. It's just like my house. It represents me. We really couldn't have done what we did on the movie theater if we would have been under these rules. I don't think we could have afforded whatever they would have wanted us to use."
"People that have the money or the where-with-all who want to build something here, it's in their best interest to do the right thing and to do a good job," Simmons added. "It's their building."
"If a business is trying to do something less than what the standards are, then it certainly would add more cost," Edelman said. "The question for the community is, `Is that cost to the individual business worth it for the benefit of the overall community?'"
"Now is not the time to do it. We don't need to have increased costs," Brown continued. "We're in a recession. We're getting close to double digit unemployment. Adding costs? Now is not the time to do it."
For now, the planning commission will hold a public workshop next Tuesday. While it is open to the public, the commission will review comments from the public hearing held earlier this week and there will not be a time for public discussion.
"The commission is going to get together at that time and see what direction they want to go with the standards," Edelman said. "This is a very open process. They really want to do something that's good for the city."
Based on the commission's preferences, a revised draft will be crafted to once again bring forward for the community's opinion.
"My guess is, the planning commission will probably take more testimony on the revised draft and then probably wait till one more hearing before they make a formal decision," Edelman continued. "I'm sure they'll want to get feedback on the revised draft. I think they're going to probably consider significant changes to it, based on the input they got.
The City of Prineville Planning Commission workshop will be held Tuesday, March 25, at 5:30 p.m. The workshop is open to the public and will take place at City Hall. A second public hearing to discuss the revised draft will take place on Tuesday, April 15, at 7 p.m., also at City Hall. For more information, call 447-5726.