The Lithia Artisans Market will not be able to dodge the city's planning process in order to use nine parking spaces along the downtown Plaza for an expanded market.
The Ashland City Council could have sidestepped the process and given the market permission to use the busy area, but councilors earlier this week chose not to.
Several said the planning process will give all community members, including downtown business owners, the chance to offer input on the proposal.
"If we don't go through that, it would seem like we're skipping a step, no matter the outcome," Councilor Rich Rosenthal said.
Councilor Dennis Slattery said many downtown businesses scrape by in the winter and rely on the summer tourist season to stay afloat.
He said the community needs to closely scrutinize the idea of using part of the Plaza area for expanded selling.
Councilor Greg Lemhouse said he thought it was an idea worth exploring.
"Finding a balance is what is going to be important," he said.
Lemhouse had proposed letting the market operate in the Plaza space two Sundays each month for a six-month trial period.
He said helping the artisans gain more visibility could fit in with Ashland's economic development strategy.
If the Lithia Artisans Market decides to file a planning application to use the nine Plaza parking spaces, the process would cost about $1,100 and take two to four months, according to City Administrator Dave Kanner.
In documents submitted to the city, artisans said they need a more visible location.
The market operates from March through October along part of the Calle Guanajuato pedestrian path behind Plaza businesses.
Artisans also have permission to use a small parking area next to the Community Development Department Building on Winburn Way, across from Lithia Park.
Artisans said space is limited along the Calle because of the expansion of restaurants' outdoor dining there, and customers don't like visiting booths in the parking area because it's hot, noisy and smelly.
The parking area has garbage and recycling containers as well as public restrooms.
Artisans have talked with more than two dozen business owners downtown and heard a range of reactions to the Plaza idea.
Some owners said the expanded market would bring more vibrancy to the downtown and attract visitors, while others said it would consume scarce parking and compete with brick-and-mortar businesses that pay for building space, according to a summary of responses collected by the artisans.
Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or firstname.lastname@example.org.