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Saturday November 1st 2014

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Sidewalk Rules

During a special meeting this morning, the Downtown Improvement Board’s Business and Development Committee met to discuss the city of Pensacola’s proposed regulations governing the usage of its sidewalks.

“You can’t have the wild, wild west out there and have everybody doing what they want to do,” said DIB Executive Director Franklin Kimbrough yesterday.

While only two members of the committee attended the meeting, several downtown business owners were there to voice their concerns.

“I found out about this in the middle of the night, twelve hours ago,” said Nick Zangari, owner of New York Nick’s. “I didn’t know about any of this. Did you know about any of this?”

Pensacola City Councilman Brian Spencer, who is also on the DIB, said that the issue of sidewalk regulations had been a topic of discussion for several months. He said that a recent Planning Board workshop’s attendance was encouraging.

Spencer said that the city hoped to ensure pedestrian access and compliance with American Disabilities Act standards. The proposed regulations also address noise, hours of operation and aesthetics.

City Administrator Bill Reynolds said later in the afternoon, that the city was focusing on the issue in light of recent growth. He said recent License to Use permit applications from Oriley’s, World of Beer and some of Quint Studer’s properties brought the issue to a head.

“Clearly, something has to be done,” he said.

Reynolds said that the city had been looking at the issue for about a year and a half, and that city council had been pushing for regulations as the city was experiencing growth.

“As we see more growth downtown, it’s become clear that we really need to have some guidelines,” he said. “If we spell it out, then everybody knows exactly what to expect.”

Reynolds said that the city was basing its regulations on similar guidelines in other cities. The business owners in the DIB meeting—hailing from Nick’s, World of Beer and Hopjack’s—expressed concern that they had not been consulted as the city drafted its proposed regulations.

“I don’t think anyone’s saying your doing anything wrong,” Kimbrough told them. “They’re just trying to get everything uniform.”

The committee members—Deborah Dunlap and Chairman Chip Otwell—went line by line of the proposed regulations with the business owners. They tweaked language, corrected typos and took issue with various provisions.

The city regulations, drafted in the planning department, mainly sought to regulate such things as outdoor furniture placement, noise from music and televisions and fees for cleaning sidewalks.

Kimbrough said that the regulations were needed because the downtown area had evolved into a mixed-use space. He said regulations should accommodate businesses— retail, restaurants and entertainment—as well as residents.

“All of these things make downtown alive and vibrant,” Kimbrough said. “That’s what we have strived for for decades, and we’re almost there now.”

Next week, the full DIB will take up the committee’s recommended changes to the proposed regulations. The board will then forward those recommendations to the city council.

“We’re looking to have this done relatively quickly,” said City Administrator Bill Reynolds, adding that he expected the council to take up the issue within the next couple of meetings.