Council candidates woo business support

Six candidates for the island’s three city council seats tried to persuade the island’s business community Thursday that they are better able to keep the wheels of island commerce turning.

Each candidate answered three questions at the Chamber of Commerce’s monthly lunch meeting at the Commons.

Saying she had taken the time to actually talk to downtown businesses, central ward candidate Deborah Vann said her survey shows that businesses feel ignored by City Hall and the City Council. The remedy, she said, is better communication and more citizen input, especially on issues like parking.

If tax-cutting Initiative 747 passes, she said more money should come from large-scale developers, who she said the city is subsidizing.

Her opponent, incumbent Jim Llewellyn, said making cell towers easier to locate will improve cell-phone service on the island, which will benefit businesses. Llewellyn said businesses need more room to grow on the island.

He advocated a public-private partnership to “keep the ball rolling” on the proposed Town Center parking structure and community center. He said that if the budget tightens, maintenance and repairs will have to take the hit, rather than mandated services.

Bill Nelson, who is seeking the central ward seat of retiring Merrill Robison, advocated more business development in the downtown area “to spread the costs of city government.”

He also said greater residential density will provide more customers for those businesses, and he wanted to see the Winslow Way and High School Road districts linked more closely, calling for the opening of Ericksen Avenue.

Bill Knobloch, his opponent, backed the downtown parking garage and called for building a marina at Waterfront Park.

“If you build it, they will come,” he said, “and they will spend money.”

Knobloch said he would open an office on Ericksen to be more accessible to the business community.

“We’re going to get you all involved,” he said.

In the north end race for the seat being vacated by Liz Murray, planning commissioner Deborah Vancil called island businesses “something to be nurtured, not tolerated.

“If we are going to have a quaint Winslow Way to enjoy on Saturday afternoon, we are going to have to support those businesses the rest of the week,” she said, calling for implementation of the Comprehensive Plan’s economic element, and for development and implementation of a master plan for parking.

Her opponent, architect Tom Hofferber, said the council needs to end “its preoccupation with land use,” and do more to promote island businesses.

He called for linking Ericksen Avenue to Hildebrand Lane, applauded Knobloch’s marina suggestion, and backed a downtown parking garage.

Hofferber urged simplifying city codes to reduce the internal cost of building-permit reviews. He was skeptical about raising permit and impact fees, saying those costs get passed on to buyers.

“You can’t have economic diversity if you’re passing on additional costs,” he said.

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