KSJD Radio’s latest effort to create a designated area for outdoor drinking and dining near the Sunflower Theatre was tabled during a busy Cortez City Council meeting on Tuesday.
During one of four public hearings on the meeting agenda, Jeff Pope, executive director of KSJD and Sunflower Theatre manager, presented a request to the council for permission to change the theater’s premises by extending the sidewalk on Market Street and designating an area outside each theater entrance where visitors could sit during and after shows.
The theater already has an arts liquor license and outdoor dining agreement with the city, but it needs council approval to change the premises where alcohol can be served. After a long, heated discussion and several objections from the owners of other Main Street businesses, council members realized they had not properly advertised the public hearing in advance, and voted to table the issue until their next meeting.
Pope has been trying to form a plan for outdoor dining at the theater since June, when he presented the council with a preliminary design for a “parklet” that would replace a few parking spots outside the building. The plan has gone through several changes since then, in response to feedback that Pope said he has received from neighboring businesses. The version he brought to the council meeting on Tuesday would put temporary seating in two roped-off sections of the sidewalk in front of the Sunflower’s two entrances, and would widen the sidewalk on Market Street with the help of the city’s concrete cost-share program, for which the theatre applied in April.
Public Works Director Phil Johnson said on Sept. 1 that the sidewalk extension would not impact parking, but on Tuesday he said it would likely only leave room for compact vehicles in some Market Street parking spots. He also said the city will soon need to consider removing the last parking spot on the corner of Market and Main streets, regardless of whether the sidewalk extension goes through, because it doesn’t meet Colorado Department of Transportation safety standards.
But several council members expressed confusion about the details of the proposed modification.
City Attorney Mike Green said it wasn’t clear whether pedestrians would have room to walk on the Market Street sidewalk, and he said Pope’s submitted drawings of the proposed seating areas seemed to contradict each other.
“Maybe we just need a very clear map from the project that says what they’re going to do,” Green said.
Pope said the “proposed premise” on one drawing included some areas the theater might want to add in the more distant future, in addition to its current request. He also told the council he believed the outdoor seating areas would improve the town’s central business district.
“We’re proud to be part of the downtown economic development scene,” he said. “These proposals that I’ve brought before the council are so that we can bring more people downtown, so that they might stay just a little bit longer, so that other people could see things that are happening downtown.”
But Dave and Lana Waters, who have expressed concern about the planned outdoor seating areas in previous council meetings, said they still don’t believe Pope’s idea will be good for Main Street businesses. During the public comment section of the hearing, Lana Waters said she appreciated KSJD’s decision to move the proposed areas to the sidewalk instead of the street, but added that the current plan still contains too many “unknowns.”
She and her husband voiced concerns about the sidewalk extension’s potential impact on parking, pedestrians and the Kiva Montessori school less than a block away. The Waterses own 34 and 40 E. Main St., home to the businesses Love on a Hanger and Pharmacy Boardshop.
“I hear all of this talk about how the city council is pro-business and supports the businesses, and I totally believe that,” Dave Waters said. “Unfortunately, it’s just a few businesses, not across the board. And this is a perfect example.”
Lana Waters also pointed out that one official notice of the public hearing, as published in the classified section of The Journal on Sept. 12, left out the date. City Clerk Linda Smith said the board could not vote on an improperly advertised hearing, and the council voted unanimously to table the issue until a proper legal notice can be published.
In other parking-related decisions, the council voted unanimously to amend the city code ordinance regulating recreational vehicle parking, so that it prohibits residents from occupying an RV or park trailer on city streets overnight, but allows owners to park those vehicles on the street for a limited time. The amendment was an attempt to correct what Green called a “typo” in the original ordinance.
The council also voted to turn the parking spots on a section of Veach Street into two-hour parking.
During the meeting’s second public comment period, one town resident spent a half hour asking the council members for more information on the planned construction of medians on Main Street, and criticizing them for not publishing enough information before the project was approved.
Mayor Karen Sheek said she and Johnson would be willing to meet with the man anytime he chose to discuss the project further, and directed him to the minutes of the late 2016 meetings in which the council approved the median project. Construction has been delayed until the spring due to a lack of bids from construction companies.