Montpelier debates plan to turn parking into cafe seating - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Montpelier debates plan to turn parking into cafe seating

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They're called parklets and a number of cities from Montreal to San Francisco have embraced them. Now, Montpelier's dabbling with the idea.

"The idea is to improve on the vitality of our downtown area, to bring more people into the community, more people on the sidewalks, give merchants an opportunity to have another place for outdoor seating," Montpelier Mayor John Hollar said.

The plan is to seasonally convert some parking spaces to create green space for additional seating that would include planters and wood structures with tables. Out of the half a dozen businesses that have expressed an interest, three have drawn up initial plans. The mayor says it's part of a larger plan to create more sidewalk seating and even turn a part of State Street into a pedestrian mall on Saturdays.

"I think in a couple of years you're going to see-- periodically you're going to see this street closed on Saturdays, with more activity, more merchants -- and then we'll see parklets, that will be seasonal," Hollar said.

But at a meeting last week, state liquor control officials expressed a number of serious concerns.

"Alcohol could be passed over the fence to a car, or the railing to a car. What happens if somebody is inattentive in driving and plows into one of them? Could be somebody's had a little too much, so they fall out of it into the road. So, there are a lot of questions that need to be asked," said Bill Goggins of the Vt. Department of Liquor Control.

And some local merchants like Rob Kasow, who owns Rivendell Books, say they have concerns about losing valuable parking spaces if the bar next door gets on board.

"The city shouldn't be in the business of picking winners and losers as far as what businesses are going to benefit and what businesses are going to have to take a hit to implement this policy," Kasow said. "And I feel like my business is really on the chopping block here."

"In my view I don't think we should allow parking to drive our development decisions," Hollar said. "We need to look at that separately."

The city is encouraging the three businesses that are interest in the parklets to get their applications into the Liquor Control Board before a September hearing. But with all the questions remaining, it's unlikely the parklet plan will get off the ground any time this year.

Under the parklet plan, businesses would pay the city $810 a season for each parking space used to make up for lost meter revenue.

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