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Wednesday July 23rd 2014

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Sidewalk Rules: DIB’s Version Recommended

Taking a look at proposed regulations governing outdoor cafes, the Pensacola Planning Board decided yesterday to embrace changes suggested by the Downtown Improvement Board. Most notably, the planning board rejected a suggestion by city staff to ban live and recorded amplified music in the sidewalk seating areas.

Several members of the downtown business community, as well as a member of the DIB committee who offered up the changes, were present at the planning board meeting. They urged the city to allow for outdoor music that was also compatible with a mixed-use district that included residents.

The list of regulations the city is hammering out pertain to business’s License to Use permits, which allow for them to take advantage of the right of way, the sidewalk, for additional seating. Officials have cited downtown growth as the catalyst for the new regulations.

“We’re not unique,” outgoing DIB Chairman Franklin Kimbrough told the planning board. “Other communities have figured out how to do this.”

Earlier this year, the city’s planning department drafted proposed regulations that govern outdoor cafe’s hours and noise output, as well as matters such as American Disability Act standards. The regulations also establish fees and outline maintenance specifics associated with LTUs.

In addition to striking a portion of the rules that banned amplified music, the DIB also took issue with the city’s position that a six-foot walkable area should exist on the sidewalks. The downtown board recommended sticking with the four-foot state and federal ADA standards.

Members of the business community present at the planning board meeting said they were also concerned about a regulation that stated the city could rescind a business’s LTU without cause. They preferred that the wording be changed to ‘with cause.’

“It looks like another Big Brother-statement: ‘Even if you follow our rules we can still come down and say, you know what, thanks for playing but no thanks,’” said Joe Abston, owner of Hopjacks and Tin Cow.

Attendees also told the board that it should be specified what entity—code enforcement or the police—would be responsible for enforcing the new regulations. The planning department’s draft had left enforcement up to the “city.”

“I know it’s easy to say ‘the city,’ but man, when there’s a problem it’s really difficult to find ‘the city,’” said Kimbrough. “We can find lots of departments where it’s not their job, but it’s really difficult to find ‘the city.’”

Now that the planning board has signed off on the DIB’s version of staff’s proposed regulations, the LTU proposals will make their way to the Pensacola City Council. The council will most likely take a look at the regulations during October.