Restaurant patrons will have more options to dine al fresco following the Roseburg City Council’s vote Monday to allow stores and shops in the city to set up seating in parking spaces in front of the business.

The Business Use of Right-of-Way program approved by the council is in large part a response to restrictions connected to COVID-19, which has limited the amount of seating for area businesses, especially restaurants.

The program allows businesses to place chairs, tables, umbrellas and such in the parking spaces in front of their businesses. The space must be accessed via the sidewalk and not the street, and the business owner must delineate the area of space being used by installing a barricade at least 3 feet tall. The barricade can be made of wood, metal, planter pots, rope, or other types of materials.

The barricades, as well as all the furniture inside them can be left outside overnight. Seats can be placed on the sidewalk as long as there is a 5-foot wide clear path on the sidewalk for pedestrians.

The added seating would not be allowed on main arterial streets or highways. No fees will be charged for this program.

The program — along with a similar “parklet” program, where the on-street seating is more permanent — was championed by the Blue Zones Project, which has been working on getting this kind of extra seating for city businesses for more than three years.

In comments made before the meeting, Jessica Hand, executive director of the Blue Zones Project, said similar programs have been successful in other cities and are especially critical now, amid COVID-19.

“When COVID hit earlier this year, cities began to creatively evolve the concept of parklets to allow restaurants and other businesses additional space for dining and retail while maintaining safe physical distancing,” Hand said. “A great example of this is in Tampa, Florida, and Corvallis, Oregon, where the cities created easy business right-of-way processes.

“They allow businesses to use an on-street parking space and convert it into outdoor seating, more dining space, a space for bike racks, an artistic space or other amenities. The creation of outside dining and retail can increase the appeal and patronage to downtown, ultimately being an economic driver for our communities,” she said.

The majority of councilors agreed.

“I’ve seen this work in some other cities that I’ve visited and I very much enjoyed it,” Councilor Andrea Zielinski said.

“I think we need to do everything we can to help the restaurants anywhere in Roseburg,” Councilor Brian Prawitz said, adding that he spoke to a number of downtown restaurants that support the idea.

The council approved the program on a 4-2 vote, with councilors Beverly Cole and Ashley Hicks voting against the proposal.

Cole said she was concerned not enough city businesses were involved in the discussion and planning for the added seating, especially those located downtown, and questioned what would happen if an adjacent businesses opposed the move.

Councilor Ashley Hicks called the expanded space a “hairbrain idea” that would only add to the current parking problems downtown.

“It just doesn’t make sense to have people in the street that are frequenting the restaurant. That doesn’t sound safe,” Hicks said.

The City Council on Monday also:

  • Appointed Jamie Yraguen and Stephanie Newman to fill vacancies on the planning commission. The vacancies were due to Kerry Atherton’s resignation from the commission in April, and John Kennedy’s recent death. Yraguen’s term will run through 2023, while Edwards term will conclude on Dec. 31, 2021.
  • Invited five more groups to speak to the council at its next special work study session on homelessness, scheduled for Monday. Those who will be asked to speak are: Local legislators; representatives from local parole and probation; Rogue Retreat, a Medford agency that helps the homeless; Roseburg Police Department Chief Gary Klopfenstein and City Attorney Jim Forrester; andDouglas County Circuit Court Judge Ann Marie Simmons and Municipal Court Judge Jason Mahan. Monday’s work study session will be the fourth one held by the City Council as it grapples with what to do about the area’s homeless population.
  • Agreed to submit the following top three legislative objectives for the League of Oregon Cities: COVID-19 economic recovery investments, expedited siting for shelter and affordable housing, and mental health service delivery.

Agreed to pay Century West Engineering $91,910 for final design for improvements to Douglas Avenue. Century West, headquartered in Bend, has already been paid over $98,000 for its initial design work on the project. The project is intended to establish street alignment and grade to accommodate possible multi-family housing projects on Douglas Avenue.

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