Jacksonville panel OKs Britt parking lot changes

JACKSONVILLE — Improvements to the Britt Music Festival's First Street parking lot can move ahead despite neighbors' concerns after the town's Historical and Architectural Review Commission on Wednesday approved a certificate of appropriateness for the work.

Nearby residents testified the proposed asphalt lot doesn't fit in with the rest of the area, and some suggested a permeable surface rather than asphalt.

Britt is making improvements to the festival grounds and the lot, while an accompanying city project is improving access from town.

HARC approved other design changes in February but carried the parking lot issue over to this month's session.

"Britt has made an exacting effort to meet the needs of the neighbors," said Kelsy Ausland of Ausland Construction, contractor for the upgrades.

Four meetings were held with neighbors since December, she said.

Among changes to the original plan were upping the amount of landscaping at the site from 12 to 40 percent of the area, reducing signage and putting in terraced retaining walls that will be landscaped.

Located at the southeast corner of First and Pine streets, the site has been called the "musicians lot" or the "volunteers' lot." Britt's plan calls for creating eight parking spaces in the southern part of the lot and three adjacent lanes where bands can park touring buses.

Bands previously parked the rigs along First Street.

The city project includes a sidewalk along the west side of First, which precludes bus parking but provides easier pedestrian access to the festival grounds.

The parking upgrades were included in a 2006 Britt Master Plan that was adopted by the city. HARC's Wednesday action covered design specifics.

Rebecca Williams, who lives immediately south of the lot on First Street, was generally happy with the plan changes.

"As Britt's most primary neighbor, I commend the efforts and improvements on the plans," Williams testified. "We have come so far."

Other neighbors remained skeptical.

"An asphalt lot is totally out of character," said Carol Knapp, who lives on Oregon Street immediately east of the project. Knapp said there was no problem with water running downhill into her property during the 1997 flood, and she feared an impermeable surface might change that.

David Gibb, who lives east of the site, showed a type of paver he claimed has been used elsewhere to meet ADA compliance while providing a permeable surface.

City codes call for use of pervious materials, such as pavers, for parking lots unless determined to be unfeasible by a certified engineer.

City Engineer Scott Pingle testified that due to previous parking on the site, use of pervious material might lead to runoff into adjacent downhill properties. Archaeological constraints on the area would not allow extensive excavation needed for pervious surfaces, he said.

Paver materials would not comply with requirements for ADA parking and access, said city Building Officer Dale Bohannan.

Britt originally had planned for six ADA parking spots in the eight-vehicle lot. But when neighbors objected to the extensive signage that would have been required, the festival opted for just one ADA spot. However, five other spots will remain up to ADA standards, and Britt will regulate their use during events to ensure access for challenged visitors.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

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