Ephrata council mulls end to business parking restrictions

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Charles H. Featherstone/Columbia Basin Herald Ephrata City Council member Matt Moore explains some of the difficulties his family’s business, Moore Furniture, has had complying with Ephrata’s parking regulations.

EPHRATA — The Ephrata city council is considering removing all parking requirements for business licenses in the city limits.

At a regular meeting Wednesday, City Administrator Wes Crago said a change in the regulations would be an attempt to reflect Ephrata’s overall philosophy of government.

“It’s private land, private businesses on their own land, and it’s not the job of government to referee,” he said. “We encourage, we educate, we don’t regulate anymore.”

Currently, outside of the city’s downtown, Ephrata city zoning rules requires a certain number of parking spaces per square foot of business space in order to get approval to do business. Any change would apply only to businesses, however.

The council is examining the parking rules, Crago said, after a request from council member Matt Moore, one of the owners of Moore Furniture, to reconsider the city’s parking rules for commercial businesses.

Moore, who recently had to have a permit approved for an expansion, said his company “had to be creative” about the layout of their new parking lot in order to comply with city rules.

“Two-thirds parking to one-third business (space) is a good rule of thumb,” Moore said. “No businesses downtown comply, and we can’t conjure up more land.”

Moore said his family’s business has completed all its current projects, and has nothing on the agenda for consideration or approval.

Council members were generally supportive, but also cautious about making such a big change.

“I’d hate to see anything that restricts new businesses. We have parking, but not where you’d like it, which is downtown,” said council member Valli Millard.

Council member Justin Kooy noted that if there is no requirement on the part of the city to provide a certain number of parking spaces for city parks, it shouldn’t have the power to tell businesses how to operate.

“If the city has no burden, why should business?” Kool asked.

Crago said city staff will need to hold two public hearings on any proposal to remove parking regulations, and will begin working directly with the Ephrata Chamber of Commerce on the proposal as well.

“We’re already halfway there,” Millard said. “Downtown is already exempt.”

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at countygvt@columbiabasinherald.com.

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