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Business owner criticizes bicycle race
By Terri Harber
A downtown Baker City business owner told the City Council on Tuesday that he was upset about the Baker City Cycling Classic that took place June 28-30.
Bill Harvey Jr. of Good Seed Bagels, in the 1700 block of Main Street, told councilors the bicycle race, parts of which took place downtown, caused problems to his and other establishments.
Regular customers were pretty good about coming in but no bicyclists or visitors popped in to buy food, Harvey said, referring to Saturday, June 29 when the criterium stage of the race happened on downtown streets.
“Don’t shut our businesses down,” Harvey said.
Good Seed Bagels opened earlier this year.
Race director Brian Vegter told councilors that many cyclists ate at local restaurants such as Barley Brown’s and Paizano’s Pizza, as well as the Haines Steak House.
“Some businesses had their best weekends of the year,” Vegter said.
Harvey blamed the lack of business on the parking ban that affected much of the downtown area on June 29 — the most event-filled day of the race.
Drivers also took a long route around if they needed to travel from one end of the city to the other, he contends.
Harvey suggested the major race events be moved to Sunday in the future, or that race officials redesign the route so it’s on rural county roads and not affecting downtown businesses.
He also suggested the city talk to people who own downtown businesses to find out what they think about the event.
Vegter read to councilors from emails he received from people who support the bike race.
The race also served as a tool to raise thousands of dollars for local youth sports, Vegter said.
He suggested that Harvey and other business owners who didn’t garner much action this year during the races consider contacting the Baker Chamber of Commerce, for example, to get promotional flyers added into the bike racers’ gift bags.
Barbara McNeil of Zephyr Bakery, in the 1900 block of Main, directed this comment to Harvey and other downtown business owners: “Not every event is going to be your event.”
This is why it’s important to choose the one (or ones) that appears to be compatible to your product and promote the business heavily to those who would participate in, or simply watch, certain events, McNeil said.
More people have patronized Zephyr each year during the event, and the people coming in were spectators, she said.
Zephyr will close this Saturday because she expects business to be too slow to be open during the Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally, which starts Friday.
If the bicycle race were moved out of downtown, “then nobody would come,” said Councilor Barbara Johnson.
The discussion of the bicycle race transpired during the public comment time at the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting.
The councilors will have about four-and-a-half months to renew the city’s authority to collect assessments and charge for business licenses within the Downtown Economic Improvement District (EID), City Manager Mike Kee said.
Johnson and Mayor Richard Langrell said they support the program, which started in 1993 and is the major source of revenue for Historic Baker City, Inc.
At least one-third of the business owners would have to provide written rejection of the EID to prevent it from continuing, Kee said.
Downtown property owners should expect to receive letters soon explaining how the councilors are considering renewal of the district.
Then a petition will be circulated among property owners of more than 200 sites downtown to determine whether there is support for the district.
An important part of the process is creating a economic development plan — a process that must be accomplished quickly.
It will be based on the plan included in Ordinance No. 3288. It’s being used to create a new ordinance: No. 3324.
Kee suggested the councilors devote a work session to the EID and related processes.
The city also intends to create a Request For Proposals for interested groups to run the EID. Historic Baker City Inc., is the group that handles it currently.
City officials should be highly specific about what it wants from the HBC and other potential providers, said Councilor Clair Button.
Terry Drever-Gee submitted her resignation from the HBC board this past spring because of certain actions she found distasteful.
She said any new agreement between the city and HBC should seek added “transparency” by the nonprofit’s officials.
She also emphasized that she still supports the non-profit: “It just needs to be headed in the right direction and focused.”
Marv Sumner helped start the HBC and was its leader during previous years. He told the councilors that conditions have become “too political.”
“If we need to make changes — that’s up to the board,” he said. “It has gotten itself leveled out.”
The HBC’s “whole idea was economic development,” Sumner said.
Transient business fees
The councilors also heard from Valerie Tachenko of Val’s Veggies.
The farm is selling produce from a stand on Campbell Street, across the street from Geiser-Pollman Park, for the next few months and is considered a transient business.
The farm itself is in Baker County, near Keating. Because it’s in Baker County the fee is $300 a month.
“I think the fee is too steep,” she said.
Businesses based elsewhere are charged $500 a month for a similar arrangement.
Tachenko asked the councilors to look at the license fee and the ordinance itself.
The ordinance was updated this past November.
In other business, the councilors:
• Accepted first reading of the proposed smoking ban in city parks. It’s Ordinance No. 3322. Councilor Roger Coles voted against it. Councilor Dennis Dorrah wasn’t at the meeting so the spread was 5-1 in favor of the ban.
• Approved pursuit of a Ford Foundation grant that would help the city with strategic planning.