Panel considers changes to sidewalk display rules

STRASBURG – Town leaders might tweak the rules for downtown businesses after some owners and residents complained.

The Planning Commission voted Tuesday to recommend that Town Council change the regulation in the Unified Development Ordinance pertaining to how much sidewalk space businesses may use to display merchandise. Several Town Council members also sat in the audience.

Several people, including residents and business owners, spoke during the public hearing held on the matter. At least two speakers suggested that if business owners are responsible for clearing 100 percent of the sidewalk after a snowstorm then they should be allowed to use 100 percent of the space for their stores. At least one business owner said much of his sales comes from the items he displays on the sidewalk. Other members of the audience later became involved in the discussion as commission members asked for more input.

The ordinance allows business owners to display merchandise on the sidewalks but only up to 50 percent of the length of their stores. Proprietors also must leave at least 4 feet of space on the sidewalk to abide by federal regulations such as those for wheelchair access.

During the discussion after the hearing, commissioner Taralyn Nicholson suggested that the panel suggest council change the ordinance to increase the breadth of the restriction from 50 percent to 100 percent. Nicholson also suggested that businesses be allowed to display wares up to 5 feet high from the sidewalk. The ordinance does not currently regulate the height of displays. The changes as suggested by the commission for approval by council would restrict displays that obscure windows.

Some members of the commission and the audience agreed that business owners likely would not want to set up displays that block out their windows. Nor would they want to create displays so big that they would not want to bring in the items at closing. The ordinance does require that business owners bring in displays overnight.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com