A temporary change to city code should make it easier for Fayetteville businesses to expand onto the sidewalks and parking spaces outside their doors.
The City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to approve an ordinance that waives the application fees and process, along with some notification and posting requirements for sidewalk cafes and parklets.
The use of sidewalk space and parking spaces is currently allowed, but the changes made on Tuesday should expedite the process in hopes of providing safer options for social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
City staff said the adjustment would enable various businesses to explore outdoor seating and to be creative and try new things quickly without remitting fees or waiting for a permit review process. The new outdoor areas could be utilized by restaurants, bars, performance venues and other businesses looking to expand outdoor seating.
The ordinance allows businesses in paid parking areas to use up to three parking spaces for a parklet as long as they pay the daily rate for each space, which ranges from $2.50 per space near the downtown square to $5 per space in the Dickson Street entertainment district.
The parking spaces must be directly adjacent to the business and located at least one space away from a corner or another parklet.
The spaces can include dining tables or seating with some type of buffer to protect users from street traffic. Buffers can be as simple as reflective tape, but could also include planters, temporary railings, or other types of edging.
Parklets are permitted where the posted speed limit is 30 mph or less, but city staff said streets with higher speed limits may be considered on a case-by-case basis. They must also comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and be situated on streets with a grade of no more than five percent or provide a level surface in order to meet the grade requirement.
Decks can be constructed on parklets, but they must be designed for easy removal and cannot be bolted into the asphalt. All removable furniture in a parklet must either be locked or stowed each night.
During a special council meeting on Tuesday, Council Member Matthew Petty said he’d like to see the ordinance implemented permanently, not just during the pandemic. Other council members agreed.
Mayor Lioneld Jordan said if things go well, the change could be made permanent in the future.