Saturday, August 30, 2014

Phelpes proposed 2010-2011 Storyville in the Park in Ashland, OR--a promising project that deadlocked over land use impact concerns

One of the things that has been mentioned about the apparently recently announced new addition to the Mars Hill Board of Advisors and Accountability Jon Phelps is he has a longtime association with Mars Hill.  Some reporters and writers also consider him a bit reclusive and elusive.  While he has been described as being one of the biggest donors in the history of Mars Hill, if not "the" biggest financial backer of Mars Hill it's not possible or practical to verify or debunk those kinds of claims.

As with so many things associated with the history of persons significant in the history of Mars Hill, sometimes the only clues are in a history of real estate. 
For those unfamiliar with Phelps, he's more likely to have any national recognition as founder of Full Sail University, per an old 1990 piece about Full SailL

In the Pacific Northwest Phelps is better known for Storyville Coffee.  The Stranger noted a long-time association between Jon Phelps and Mars Hill but unfortunately botched the date of the publication of a Driscoll book.

Jon and Esther Phelps are cited as Storyville owners; as Mars Hillers, they merited a thank-you from Driscoll in his 2009 book The Radical Reformission: Reaching Out Without Selling Out.

Actually, the book was published in 2004.

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan (September 13, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0310256593
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310256595

  • Which means that the Phelpses have at least a ten year association of some kind with Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill.  It's a shame Clement or an editor got the publication date of Driscoll's first big book wrong.

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan; Reprint edition (April 8, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0310515009
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310515005

  • The book seems to have been redesigned and republished as Reformission in 2013.  Any enterprising readers want to note who owns the copyright for the reprinted book?

    Anyway, moving along back to Jon Phelps

    A little bird sent something to Wenatchee The Hatchet from a

    But this is just a redistributor of earlier news stories.  But Wenatchee is one of those native Northwesterners who saw immediately that this was coverage from Ashland, OR and it was just a matter of going back to the local paper for more direct coverage.

    The story of the proposed project goes back to 2010.  The owners of Storyville Coffee hoped to set up a lodge-style restaurant

    a story from 2011, of Ashland, OR official in ethics quandary over accepting a ride on a plane (owned by Phelps)
    March 4, 2011
    by Vicki Aldous

    Ashland Community Development Department Director Bill Molnar accepted a free scenic airplane ride over Ashland and Crater Lake from Mark Knox, a local land use consultant who frequently represents clients with planning applications reviewed by the department, city officials said.The plane was owned by Jon and Esther Phelps. The couple are proposing to build a lodge-style restaurant on Winburn Way, across from Lithia Park. - See more at:

    There were concerns, but Molnar still clearly has his job as Community Development Director of the City of Ashland.  That was just a minor consideration along the way.  There were concerns about whether the free scenic airplane ride created any undue influence.  It looks like it didn't. 

    Per local coverage city restrictions were tighter than state restrictions (for readers who have never lived in Oregon this is a state in which Portland, to this day, has never put fluoride in its municipal water).  Molnar didn't know the plane he was given a ride in was owned by the Phelps when the plane ride was offered. 

    So that issue was cleared up and the real problem that presented itself were matters of land use and zoning restrictions.

    March 4, 2011 (also by Aldous)
    Mayor John Stromberg had mixed things to say about the Phelps' proposed project.  It had a lot of good points going for it but there were concerns about parking and about land use if the proposed restaurant failed.  For those who may not track those things restaurants are frequently businesses that go out of business within the first three years of opening, give or take regional variation.  The failure rate of a restaurant can be pretty high.  Ergo concerns from the city, per the article, tow hat use would the land be put if the restaurant didn't work?

    Another concern was the impact development would have on parking associated with medical offices.

    March 4, 2011

    By May 2011 the project was dead
    By Vickie Aldous
           Posted May. 7, 2011 @ 2:00 am

              A couple proposing to build a 189-seat restaurant across from Lithia Park has abandoned the idea after the Ashland City Council approved the plan on Wednesday with conditions that included $250,000 in parking impact fees.Jon and Esther Phelps, founders of Seattle-based Storyville Coffee, released a statement on Friday saying they would not build the restaurant.

    Jon and Esther Phelps, founders of Seattle-based Storyville Coffee, released a statement on Friday saying they would not build the restaurant."We are disappointed that the dream of Storyville in the Park has come to an end. We have concluded that the terms and conditions put forth by the Ashland City Council render our project unfeasible," they said in the brief written statement.
    - See more at:

    The project was approved with certain fees and restrictions, but these were fees and restrictions that the Phelpses.

    For those who don't know why Lithia Park was such a significant concern ...

    The park began with eight acres in 1892 by the Chautauqua Association to bring entertainment and culture to southern Oregon. They built a domed building for their shows, the walls of which now surround the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's Elizabethan Theater.

    Visitors came from miles around over the next thirty summers to participate in the various attractions offered and to camp in what was to become Lithia Park.

    The Oregon Shakespeare Festival began in 1935 with a three-day summer festival of Shakespearean plays under founding director Angus Bowmer.

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