An Eau Claire city councilwoman questioned the aesthetics of allowing small stacks of old car tires to be used as planters along a downtown street.
Laura Benjamin put up a losing fight during Tuesday’s City Council meeting to make a formal request to Brent Douglas Flowers to either modify the tires so they look better or use other planters as part of the shop’s effort to beautify the 600 block of South Barstow Street.
Benjamin noted that the city got some feedback last year that the tire planters were unsightly, and she wanted visitors to Eau Claire’s downtown to not have the same reaction this year.
She sought to delay approval of an encroachment Brent Douglas needs from the city until officials could discuss the planters with the merchant. But her motion failed in a 1-9 vote with Councilwoman Kate Beaton absent from Tuesday’s meeting.
Councilwoman Catherine Emmanuelle praised the store’s creativity and felt that a “hint of conversation” would be enough to encourage nicer planters, but she didn’t want the city to make that a binding condition.
“It’s a gift that he’s offering,” she said.
The planters — some are handmade wooden structures and others are tires — will be placed through the growing season on the paved boulevard between the curb and sidewalk along South Barstow Street. The store and volunteers will tend the flowers and vegetables grown inside of them as a means to improve the looks of the street and provide food to the nearby Sojourner House homeless shelter.
Benjamin said she appreciates the store’s efforts, but she feels the tires were not attractive.
City engineer David Solberg said the city received negative comments on the aesthetics of the tire planters but also praise for the creative reuse of materials.
Giving a nod to the city’s past when Uniroyal tires were manufactured here, Councilman David Klinkhammer said the rubber planters do hint at Eau Claire’s history.
“The tire industry has been kind of integral in the city, so it’s not entirely inappropriate,” he said.
Though her effort was unsuccessful, Benjamin, who was elected in April, was congratulated after the meeting by fellow council members who recalled their first struggles to get policies adopted.
Also during Tuesday’s council meeting:
• Plans by local hospitality company Larson Cos. to replace the Clarion hotel, 2703 Craig Road, with two new hotels and an as-yet-undecided commercial building were approved unanimously.
• Four blocks of downtown Eau Claire will be closed during upcoming classic car, truck and motorcycle shows. Sponsored by Downtown Eau Claire Inc. and Westhill Auto Rallies, the first show is 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday. The event got approval Tuesday to use two blocks of Graham Avenue and two blocks of East Grand Avenue for this weekend’s show and subsequent evening shows on June 11, July 16, Aug. 17 and Sept. 17.
• The city is buying a vacant half-acre lot for $10,000 on Eau Claire’s west side near Folsom Street. The land is next to 4.5 acres the city bought in February for $285,000 for use as a future park.
• Rolbiecki’s, a tavern that plans to open in autumn at 1004 Menomonie St., received one of the few reserve liquor licenses the city has left. Now Eau Claire has only three remaining licenses available for new bars or restaurants that want to include liquor in their offerings.
• In a 9-1 vote with Klinkhammer casting the dissenting vote, the council approved a code of conduct that applies to its own members.