By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
Discontent at a recent meeting of the Keizer Chamber of Commerce’s Iris Festival Committee spilled over into the chambers of the Keizer City Council Monday, April 2.
The owner of a marijuana shop on Cherry Avenue Northeast is requesting some sort of accommodation when the road in front of his business is closed to make way for the Iris Festival campus in front of Keizer Lions Club less than a block away.
Keven Cutter, owner of The Grass Hut II, located at 4085 Cherry Avenue N.E., said his business was negatively impacted when Cherry Avenue was closed in front of his shop for four days for the Iris Festival.
“Over the course of four days we lost about $4,000,” Cutter told the city council during public testimony. “That’s about $126 in lost taxes for your city.”
At the time of the 2017 Iris Festival, The Grass Hut II had only been open for two months. Cutter said he stands to lose even more business this year. When some of his customers began parking at Bi-Mart, Bi-Mart’s managers complained to him.
Cutter also took issue with being notified of the closure less than a day before it went into effect in 2017. Cutter said he talked with members of the Iris Festival Committee at a March meeting and received “a big, fat ‘No’” when he requested that the road closure be moved north of driveway to the Patient Grower Network (PGN) Lodge across the street from his business.
Cutter said members of the Iris Festival Committee cited the need for ADA parking and safety issues as the reason for closing down that section of the road and the refusal to move the barricades north.
When Cutter asked councilors for proof of the relevant safety issues, Chief John Teague of the Keizer Police Department responded.
“The first year (the closure) was further north and people were having to do three-point turns in the middle of Cherry Avenue and that is a safety issue. Blocking it off at Alder reduces that problem,” Teague said.
Cutter said members of the Iris Festival Committee agreed to add verbiage to the “local access only” signs announcing that the businesses along that stretch of Cherry Avenue were still open, but he didn’t feel that was enough.
“I wanted the sign moved and I was told I had no option,” Cutter said. “For an (organization) whose mission it is to help businesses flourish, I didn’t feel like they were helping me flourish.”
Cutter said members of the committee suggested he pay someone to hold a sign at the closure point to attract customers to the business, but he didn’t see how adding additional people to an already congested area would alleviate the problem.
Councilor Marlene Parsons asked Cutter if he would be more amenable to a sign that included the names of the businesses in the closed-off section of Cherry.
“That’s a lot better than any solution I’ve heard so far,” Cutter said.
Mayor Cathy Clark requested city staff investigate the issue and return to council with a recommendation if necessary. The council will also have a chance to revisit the matter before the city issues a special use permit for the festival.