Council changes sidewalk permitting

People walk Wednesday afternoon past Coal Creek Coffee Co.’s downtown location. The Laramie City Council passed a resolution that spells out a standardized process for businesses to lease part of adjacent sidewalks for $50 a year.

The Laramie City Council passed two resolutions that will allow businesses to use sidewalks adjacent to their properties in ways that could produce profit.

The council passed a resolution Tuesday that will allow for a more comprehensive and clear process for businesses to obtain a permit to allow them to use foot pavement outside of their establishment. An example of an encroachment already in place is the seating outside of Coal Creek Coffee Co.’s downtown location.

The first resolution laid the groundwork for the next one discussed, which would set a fee schedule for people who wish to obtain such a permit. The original resolution would have the permit cost $25 plus $2.50 per square foot of sidewalk used annually.

Shantel Anderson, chair of the Laramie Main Street Alliance, said the organization supported the resolution as it was written and the cost is reasonable. Coal Creek Coffee Co. owner John Guerin, who obtained an agreement several years ago for the encroachment in front of his business, was not as supportive.

Guerin said the price was too high, and there were a couple of issues with how enforcement is currently done. Guerin said the outside seating at his business was only usable for a couple of months because of Laramie’s weather and people who did not patronize his business would use the area.

Councilman Bryan Shuster said the council needs to go about permitting in a business-friendly manner. During a forum for Ward 3 City Council candidates, he said Laramie being business-friendly was a question of concern from the public.

As Laramie would be one of the early adopters of the practice in Wyoming, Councilman Dave Paulekas said the council should look to the south for examples of what should be done. He said the use of public sidewalks has become common among parts of the Front Range, a region comprising the Denver metropolitan area stretching up to Cheyenne.

A point of contention was the fee level as some of the members felt the $2.50 per square foot was too high. Councilman Klaus Hanson said he had been talking with Shuster on the price, addressing how hard it could be for the business to turn a profit off the area. Hanson said he felt like the price would discourage businesses from using the permit system.

Councilman Pat Gabriel said he had to weigh both sides, but in the end, he agreed the rate should be lowered. Vice Mayor Jayne Pearce said she thought the price seemed very reasonable, as this was a inexpensive way of adding more tables to a restaurant.

Mayor Andi Summerville said she was also concerned about charging money at the proposed level. She did not feel comfortable charging the fee knowing the money would not be going to enforcement of code or aiding the downtown in some way. She felt more comfortable with a flat $25 a year fee and called on the council to revisit the issue in the future after seeing how it pans out.

Laramie Councilwoman Phoebe Stoner moved an amendment that would make the permit a flat $50 fee. Stoner’s amendment passed on a 6-3 vote. The resolution then passed 7-2.

Concerns about how much of the sidewalk would be allowed to be obstructed and fencing the area were raised by councilors. City Manager Janine Jordan said there is not any city code that spells out the rules, but city staff creates administrative rules based on the council’s directives. She said this allows them to be flexible with any changes that could come down from the state or federal government. The city already has guidelines on how much the path can be used and the area needed to be fenced, Jordan said.

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