Sidewalk ordinance encourages ‘street activity’

Published 5:38 pm Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Revitalization of downtown Elizabethton continues to be a focus for city officials.

To assist with the endeavor, City Council will be presented a recommendation from the Regional Planning Commission that would allow the downtown business to use sidewalks to encourage foot traffic through the B-3 business district.

After seeing successful results from downtowns like Asheville and Knoxville, Elizabethton Director of Planning and Development Jon Hartman said commission members were able to come together to form regulations to all and manage usage of the sidewalks. The ordinance will be voted upon during Thursday’s meeting.

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“Many communities in the area allow for the use of sidewalks by downtown businesses for sidewalk cafes, display of merchandise or food carts,” Hartman said. “These are often signs of downtown activity and revitalization.”

According to information provided by City Hall, the proposals being brought before Council will call for the regulation and allow for pushcarts, sidewalk performers, outdoor dining areas, outdoor merchandise areas and sidewalk clearance areas for pedestrian passage.

Other parts of the agreement include the use of encroachment agreements and liability releases to ensure any businesses using the sidewalk for the benefit will be responsible for anyone harmed. The overall intent, according to Hartman, is to provide “street-level” activity on the sidewalk, which will help draw in traffic and potential businesses.

As of now, the regulations do not allow and prohibit the sidewalks to be used by adjacent businesses.

An agreement by commissioners was made during their May meeting, which also included the results of a public online survey that was offered by the planning department to community members.

City officials have continued looking at ways to help bolster the appearance of downtown in a variety of ways. In the approved 2018-19 fiscal year budget, the city has a line item included for the completion of downtown canopy improvements for businesses.

A couple of weeks ago, the city welcomed in representatives from the Tennessee Main Street and National Main Street programs to look at possible ways of revitalizing the area.

Bristol, Kingsport and Jonesborough are just a handful of the 30-plus cities that are accredited Tennessee Main Street cities. By joining the program, Elizabethton could open its door to possible grant opportunities and other improvement projects for the district, including grants for facade improvements. Also included in the 2018-19 budget is funding for the city’s inaugural facade improvement program to assist businesses for the front of their building.