Jan 17, 2013 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
Efforts of local business owners to have a more inviting streetscape in downtown Cazenovia by putting tables, chairs and other items on the sidewalk outside their stores took another step forward last week when a draft of proposed new regulations on the issue was read, and a public hearing held, before the Cazenovia Village Board’s Jan. 7 meeting.
Only a handful of residents spoke or asked questions about the policy, and every member of the board expressed support for the proposed regulation changes.
The “suggestions for amending the village code regarding the placement of items on the sidewalk” changed only slightly from the draft of possible guidelines presented by the board in November and briefly discussed in December, said Trustee Peggy Van Arnam, who has been the board’s point person on the issue.
“Our plan is to hear from the public tonight and vote on any changes to the code at the March meeting,” Van Arnam said.
The question of allowing local merchants more freedom to place items on the sidewalks outside their shops within the village historic district was first broached last spring. The current village code does not allow anything owned by private individuals to be placed on the sidewalk.
The village board agreed to allow vendors to place small tables and chairs or other items directly in front of or attached to the front of the building owned or leased by them, provided they did not obstruct pedestrian flow, during summer 2012 as a way to gauge the effectiveness of possibly changing the policy.
“It’s been good; the merchants have been responsible this summer,” said Mayor Kurt Wheeler. In a sentiment echoed by the entire board, Trustee Jim Joseph said the entire process for considering and working through this possible code change “has been a success from the beginning.”
In November, the board created a list of suggestions to regulate items that may or may not be allowed on village sidewalks in front of local shops, the majority of which were incorporated into the draft regulations presented at the Jan. 7 meeting.
The draft code revision would allow vendors to place privately-owned items on village sidewalks from May 1 to Nov. 1 provided they do not obstruct pedestrian flow and are “tasteful and in keeping with the streetscape of a 19th century village.” Any vendor wishing to place items on the sidewalk must file proof of liability policy of $500,000 with the village and name the village as an additional insured on the policy.
A list of the items not allowed on village sidewalks from Nov. 1 to May 1 also remained basically the same from the November guidelines: no merchandise may be offered for sale except during the July Sidewalk Sales; no flimsy or lightweight items which may blow away or break easily; no played or piped music; no additional lighting; no additional signage or advertising for the business; no items placed on, around or attached to village benches, lamp posts or other items; no permanent structured or items not brought in at night; and no food or beverages may be served on the sidewalk except those following sidewalk café regulations.
The main change to this draft policy from the November suggestions is that vendors wishing an exemption from any of these restrictions may apply to the village board in writing with a complete description of their plans. The previous draft listed only certain regulations that exemptions could be applied for, this general allowance makes the exemption process “simpler,” Van Arnam said.
During the Jan. 7 public hearing, two local merchants expressed their support for the code changes to allow items on sidewalks.
“I look on Cazenovia village as a beautiful box of chocolates with so many surprises if only you would look, and for me the little added touches to the sidewalk invite visitors to stop and take a look,” said Judith Warburton, owner of Lavender Blue. “These extra touches show we are really open and ready to share our varied businesses, encouraging thru-traffic to stop. So many villages in Central New York have become drive-thru, nonexistent and dull, where businesses have died. We want to remain vibrant, interesting and welcoming to visitors and residents alike.”
Linda Amaral, owner of Tizzy’s at the corner of Albany and Lincklaen streets, expressed concern over how strict the new policy would be and asked for clarification on the process to apply for exemptions.
She said she has had two benches in front of her shop for seven years, and without them there, “You wouldn’t even know I was there – so do I have to apply for this [exemption]?” she asked. Also, she has small twinkle lights around the shop door, would that violate the “no additional lighting” clause of the proposed regulation?
“The idea is that listing the things not allowed leaves a whole catalog of things that are allowed,” Van Arnam responded.
She said any merchant with questions should write a letter to the board explaining their sidewalk items and simply applying for the exemption.
“I don’t think this will be a cumbersome process,” said trustee Amy Mann. “I don’t think it’s anything to be afraid of.”
The question also was asked about whether food may be eaten at tables outside village shops or restaurants. Van Arnam said yes, as long as it was take-out food and there was no food service at outside tables. “The keyword there is served,” she said.
At the close of the public hearing, Wheeler said the board would take all the “concepts” for the proposed code change, work with the village attorney on drafting the legal language and present the final regulation to the board at its regular March meeting.
Jason Emerson is the incoming editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.