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Britt parking upgrades slated to come by start of season

JACKSONVILLE — Britt Music Festival and its contractor will be on a busy schedule following the City Council's affirmation Monday that the Historic and Architectural Review Commission correctly approved conditions for parking lot improvements on First Street.

Britt Executive Director Donna Briggs and Kelsy Ausland of Ausland Construction expressed optimism that substantial work can be accomplished by the middle of June. An area for parking three band buses and an eight-space ADA lot are major project features.

"I do have a Plan B," said Briggs.

Britt's opening act, The Fray, set for June 16, has two buses, and arrangements have already been made to park them at Bigham Knoll if the area is not finished.

"I'm optimistic that we will have that lot ready for the buses by the second phase of the concerts on June 21," said Briggs. "The planting and the beautification certainly will be ongoing through the early summer."

Carol Knapp, whose house is next to the parking lot, appealed HARC's March 26 certificate of appropriateness decision on four grounds. The council rejected all four claims and affirmed the board's decision in the special meeting.

The parking upgrades are being accompanied by a joint city and Oregon Department of Transportation project that provides a walkway from downtown to the main festival entrance on First Street. Patrons previously walked in the roadway, and band buses parked along the narrow street.

Excavation materials from the sidewalk project on the parking site, located at First and Pine streets, will be used for fill and landscaping, with the remainder hauled away. The dirt lot had been used by volunteers and musicians for a number of years.

"We can now turn in our plans for the permits," said Ausland. Archaeological exploration of the site will be required before work begins, she said.

"I am not opposed to a parking lot. I would just like Britt to address the codes like the rest of us," Knapp said.

Knapp claimed the HARC findings ignored pervious surfaces that could have been used rather than asphalt, ignored requirements to conform with the area's historic character, did not specific the amount of fill to be used, violated limits on fill areas and did not determine the square footage covered by impervious materials.

Ausland countered Knapp's assertions by citing sections of city code and portions of the city staff report on the application.

Knapp noted a lack of research to support an engineer's determination that pervious surfaces were not feasible for the parking lot. But Ausland responded that the code requires only that an engineer make the determination.

"We've had three certified engineers all recommending against (pervious surfaces)," said Ausland.

Councilman Owen Jurling said it was "unfair" that details of the engineering decision were not included. But he joined other council members who unanimously upheld the HARC finding.

Council's decisions were based solely on the application record and Knapp's appeal. No new information could be entered into the record. Votes were unanimous on all four points except for the fill issue, where Councilwoman Jocie Wall abstained.

"Ultimately, all of (Knapp's) concerns had been addressed by HARC," said Ausland.

"I haven't seen anything egregious that was done by HARC in its interpretation," said Councilman David Jesser.

The council's decision can be appealed to the state's Land Use Board of Appeals.

"Going to LUBA is definitely an option I'll talk over with my counsel," said Knapp.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.