Government: City Nixes Marriott Parking Ask, County Appoints Lacey Mollel to Key Health Job

Back in 2022, the folks that operate the Corvallis Marriott bought a couple of downtown buildings for $1.25 million with the singular purpose of tearing them down to add 12 parking spaces. City staffers recommended a permit with numerous conditions. However, on July 23, the Corvallis Planning Commission told the Marriott – no. 

If the parking had been approved, it would have also added a driveway from 2nd Street behind the hotel, which is on 1st. 

Carolyn Mayers, vice-chair of the commission, moved to deny the application, citing city code that discourages surface parking, and instead encourages pedestrian and bicycle travel in the downtown core. The commission’s no vote was unanimous. 

The company could appeal the decision to the City Council, and Mayers is running for the Ward 8 Councilor’s position – but if there is an appeal, it may well be heard before any new councilors take office in January.  

There was a considerable amount of written testimony, here’s some samples… 

Arguments against the project: Wendy Byrne, who identifies herself as a local bicyclist and pedestrian advocate objected to the project writing, “Their application demonstrates 12 parking spaces and a driveway that connects from 2nd Street to the existing Marriott Hotel which fronts 1st Street. With this driveway/parking lot approach from 2nd Street, it appears that this is an effort to create a new entrance to the hotel. This conflicts with Comprehensive Plan Code 8.10.9 which states, ‘parking lots shall be located to the rear of buildings, and where they do not disrupt the pedestrian streetscape, may be located to the side of buildings.’”  

Byrne also cited code that the City is to encourage “occupation of ground floor storefront space by retail and service users that serve local neighborhood needs and generate high volumes of pedestrian traffic.” She also cited code that favor underground and multistory parking over surface parking, and that parking should be shared between vehicles and bicycles.  

Alan Ayres wrote, “There is a reason a surface parking lot is a conditional use for this zone. It is not desired and does not fit with planning objectives for this area. That does not mean that the applicant simply has to apply to be granted that use. It means that if there are special circumstances in which this use seems to satisfy or be necessary to meet planning objective then it may be approved.”  

“It is unconscionable to tear a hole in the downtown in the middle of a block that has a complete set of buildings for a parking lot! The state has recognized that excess parking will damage a community. Parking lots break up the fabric of a street. The downtown is not a commercial strip, and many have worked very hard over the years to keep the downtown going,” wrote another commenter.  

The company’s arguments in favor: MCH Project Strategies project manager Lyle Hutchens wrote, “The applicant’s property 415 to 445 SW 2nd Street, is located in the Central Business District. Within 450′ of the site and located in an adjacent block is 40,000 square feet of existing vacant building floor area which is addressed 334 to 316 SW 2nd Street and posted for lease, for sale, or for rent. This does not include the former Robnett’s building at 400 SW 2nd Street, also located in an adjacent block, which is vacant but not posted with respect to availability.”  

The properties Hutchens identified as posted for lease, however, come with a hitch – as we’ve prior reported, tenants and prospective tenants have found it difficult to work with the landlord for those properties. These buildings are often vacant for long periods, even though they are in a prime location and offered below market lease rates.  

The hotel itself also weighed in. Corvallis River Run, LLC owns the Courtyard by Marriott Corvallis – and they emailed a letter to the commission which said their guests regularly complain about the lack of parking, and that their customers don’t feel safe at the suggested backup parking location, which is at the skate park and bridge area. They also said their senior citizen guests need more parking at the hotel.  

The company argued they have 176 guestrooms and meeting space for 120 with only a total of 133 parking spaces – which means they don’t have enough parking for high and full occupancy.  

County Appoints New Community Health Director 

Benton County has appointed Lacey Mollel as the new Executive Director of the Community Health Centers of Benton and Linn Counties (CHC) beginning July 1, 2024. Mollel was approved as the next Executive Director by the CHC Board of Directors on June 17, 2024.  

Working alongside the CHC Board of Directors, “we are pleased to announce that Lacey Mollel has accepted the role of Executive Director of the CHC,” said Benton County Administrator Rachel McEneny.  

Mollel joined Benton County in May 2022 as the Deputy Director of Operations for the CHC. In August 2023, she stepped up as the Interim Executive Director. The CHC is part of the largest primary care network in the nation, focusing on providing meaningful, accessible, and culturally appropriate health care. Community Health Centers, also known as Federally Qualified Health Centers, play a crucial role in offering primary care, dental, and behavioral health services in communities. In Benton County the health centers partner with local public health and government services, as a public-entity CHC.  

During her tenure as Interim Executive Director, “Lacey has been instrumental in overseeing complex systems work and investing in future focused initiatives towards sustainability,” said McEneny.  

Mollel brings nearly two decades of experience in various healthcare delivery systems, including direct patient care in large hospital systems and administrative roles in rural health clinics and a critical access hospital in Southwest Kansas. Born and raised in Tanzania, her life with her Maasai husband enriches her perspectives on global health challenges and solutions.   

“We are incredibly fortunate to have Lacey’s leadership and perspectives at Benton County. I am confident that her vision and experience will continue to drive the CHC forward,” McEneny said.  

About Benton County Community Health Centers: These centers serve Benton and Linn Counties – they provide comprehensive healthcare services to the community, including primary care, dental, and behavioral health services. As part of the largest primary care network in the nation, they are dedicated to offering meaningful, accessible, and culturally appropriate healthcare.  

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