Willmar City Council tables downtown business sidewalk use
WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council voted 6-2 Monday night to table a proposed ordinance amendment that would permit downtown businesses such as cafes and restaurants to use the public sidewalk for commercial purposes seven days a week.
WILLMAR - The Willmar City Council voted 6-2 Monday night to table a proposed ordinance amendment that would permit downtown businesses such as cafes and restaurants to use the public sidewalk for commercial purposes seven days a week.
The council tabled the proposed ordinance amendment after some concerns were raised by downtown business people during a public hearing about possible loitering and types of furniture that would be placed on the sidewalk.
After hearing the concerns, council member Denis Anderson offered an amendment to the proposed ordinance amendment that would call for cafe or restaurant furniture to be suitable and in good repair.
City Attorney Robert Scott said that, because Anderson’s amendment was an “amendment of substance,’’ the proposal would need to be legally published and another public hearing would need to be held.
The proposed ordinance amendment was recommended by the council’s Community Development Committee, which will probably review the amended ordinance before returning it to the council.
Committee Chairman Rick Fagerlie asked council members submit all their questions ahead of time to the committee before the next public hearing.
Voting to table the issue were Fagerlie, Steve Ahmann, Ron Christianson, Denis Anderson, Jim Dokken and Tim Johnson. Voting against were Audrey Nelsen and Bruce DeBlieck.
Prior to the vote, the council held a hearing to take comments from the public.
Five people spoke to the issue. They included Liv Fuchs, co-owner of the proposed Foxhole Brewery being developed downtown. She said the ordinance amendment is one of the keys to making things happen downtown.
“We do not want you to come and stop by one store but to come hang out and visit multiple stores while you’re here,’’ she said.
Fuchs said loitering will not be allowed. She said seating is for paying customers just as the seats inside, and Fuchs said she would do everything in her power to make sure that alcohol is not served to minors.
Fuchs also said her business will be responsible to make sure the sidewalk stays clean just like inside. She said outside seating would be an extension of the taproom and it would be taken care of in the same manner.
Robin Olson, owner of Peterson Shoes, raised concern about exasperating the loitering problem and asked that city ordinances be enforced.
During council discussion, Christianson asked if paper or glass tableware would be used and he raised the possibility of broken glass. He also asked if dogs and other animals would be allowed and he asked about noise and loud talking.
“It could have an adverse effect on businesses that don’t serve food,’’ he said.
Nelsen pointed out that some downtown cafe and restaurant businesses already have tables on the sidewalk. She said allowing use of the sidewalk and enforcement of ordinances were two separate issues.
The ordinance amendment came through the interest of the downtown business community, according to Bruce Peterson, city planning and development director.
The current ordinance permits placing restaurant equipment such as tables and chairs on sidewalks but requires the furniture be removed at the end of each business day and only allows use from Monday through Saturday.
Besides permitting businesses to use the sidewalks seven days per week, the proposed amended ordinance would eliminate the requirement for daily removal of the furniture and business equipment and would allow businesses to leave tables and chairs on the sidewalks overnight.
Also, the amended ordinance would allow for consumption of alcoholic beverages outside the building on the sidewalk if the alcoholic beverages are sold by a valid licensed establishment.
In other business, the council approved the low bid of $23,738 from Chester Contracting Inc. of Willmar to replace nine locker room doors in the Cardinal Arena at the Willmar Civic Center.
Steve Brisendine, director of community education and recreation, said the project will replace original doors dating back to the initial construction of the Civic Center in the early 1980s.
The door replacement project was recommended by the council’s Finance Committee and had been budgeted for $30,000 under the capital improvements program.
The council approved a three-year agreement with Eric’s Aviation Services of Willmar to provide airport operations supervisor services for the years 2015-2017.
The agreement was recommended by the Airport Commission and the council’s Public Works/Safety Committee. Eric’s Aviation is currently providing airport supervisor services for 2013 and 2014.
Under the new agreement, the fee paid to Eric’s Aviation will be $6,428 per month in 2015; $6,524 per month in 2016; and $6,622 per month in 2017.
Also, the council accepted a Labor Committee recommendation and voted to approve the advertisement and filling of the vacant position that will be created by the retirement of City Assessor Pat Erickson in December.
City Clerk-Treasurer Kevin Halliday recommended the council advertise and fill the position. Halliday said the city had previously explored options such as merging the department with Kandiyohi County or contracting for the service. But Halliday recommended advertising and filling the position. Salary will range from $53,391 to $69,423.