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Lithia Park restaurant plan is dead

 Posted: 4:00 PM May 06, 2011

A couple proposing to build a 189-seat restaurant across from Lithia Park has abandoned the idea after the Ashland City Council approved the plan on Wednesday with conditions that included $250,000 in parking impact fees.

Jon and Esther Phelps, founders of Seattle-based Storyville Coffee who have an Ashland home, released a statement today saying they would not build the restaurant.

"We are disappointed that the dream of Storyville in the Park has come to an end. We have concluded that the terms and conditions put forth by the Ashland City Council render our project unfeasible," they said in the brief written statement.

Consultants for the Phelpses had warned that the project would not move forward if the council charged parking fees, or if it banned medical office space as a potential future use for the building.

During a special meeting on Wednesday, councilors did not require the Phelpses to provide additional parking for the restaurant, but they did impose $250,000 in fees that would have been used to add downtown parking in the future.

At one point, the council had considered fees as high as $408,750, which could have paid for parking spaces in a parking garage, rather than cheaper parking lot spaces.

Councilors also decided that the building could not be used as a medical office in the future because patient appointments would cause too many traffic and parking problems.

In small votes leading up to the decision whether to approve the restaurant, a majority of councilors voted to impose the parking fees and the ban on medical uses. All councilors voted in favor of the overall project.

In a written statement, Mayor John Stromberg, who only votes to break ties, said he was sorry to learn on Friday that Jon and Esther Phelps had decided to withdraw the project.

"The Council voted unanimously to approve it and I believe we were all hopeful that the project would move forward and provide many benefits to the community," he said.

— Vickie Aldous

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