The City Council Wednesday will consider a program to add platforms to the street throughout downtown that would permit restaurants to offer outdoor dining. But the man who originally brought outdoor dining to Main Street says the new plan “does not pass the smell test.”
The platform proposal, by Public Works Director Dave Scola, was the subject of three public meetings last month. At that time, Scola suggested, and continues to suggest, that those who want the platforms provide with the city with a $2,400 buy-in, and $72 a month in lost parking meter revenue, since the platforms would take up a parking space.
In the meantime, Scola is advising the council to return the 500 block of Main Street, and several other downtown streets, back to a two-way configuration. The 500 block of Main was changed in 1999, when the temporary pockets were installed as an experiment to attract customers to the block with outdoor dining. Though it was meant to only last a year, the pockets have remained in place, along with the one-way configuration and diagonal parking, and now the merchants on the block want to keep it that way.
But Scola said Monday that the one-way streets need to return to parallel parking to meet the requirement for a 20-foot clearance. Without that, he said, trucks, trailers and emergency vehicles can’t safely navigate around town.
“The council can choose for the streets to go one way or two ways, but I need twenty feet,” he said.
Dick Duncan, who helped spearhead the move to put outdoor “pockets” on the 500 block in 1999, said the city is rushing ahead with an ill-conceived plan that “doesn’t pass the smell test. It’s a poorly thought out strategy with no study or understanding of the problem and no options provided.”
Scola said the city has found a company that makes interlocking platforms on demand, and expects that there will be a request for 15 of them. At about $5,000 each, he said the city expects to spend a total of $75,000 on the platforms. The city would pick up the tab for slightly more than half of that cost under Scola’s proposal.