Merchants want input on future guidelines

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Downtown merchants now say they have no problem with the city’s sidewalk guidelines but want input in the future.

Judy Davenport and Rhonda Garrett of Davenport Bonding and the Coffee Kettle, Susan Conn of Main Street Florist and Clarene Sullivan of Scavengers expressed their concerns over a sidewalk policy governing sidewalk displays during pre-council at the May 4 council meeting.

In a letter to merchants dated May 3, Lowe said he had established a policy that addresses safety, freedom of movement and aesthetic issues, but because he did not get input from merchants on aesthetics, he was removing some of those requirements such as color limits as well as rust, rot and deterioration.

Once Lowe made known that he had softened the policy regarding aesthetics such as limits on color and condition of displays, Conn said, &uot;I don’t have any problem adhering&uot; to the guidelines. But she said, &uot;I just want to have input.&uot;

Conn said she had $2,000 invested in plants that required sun.

&uot;Had I known the regulations first, I never would have done that,&uot; she said.

Conn said some merchants did not receive handouts from the mayor regarding the guidelines.

She also said she attended Merchants and Professional Association meetings but did not know the city had been asked to come up with sidewalk guidelines.

&uot;It took me by surprise and I was very upset,&uot; Conn complained.

She also told Lowe she has a $2 million insurance policy covering her section of the sidewalks.

Lowe noted that it was the Merchants and Professionals Association that asked the city to develop guidelines rather than having merchants telling other merchants what to do.

While Lowe agreed that merchants could be notified in the future to provide input, he noted there are more than 120 businesses in the city.

While Davenport suggested that input be sought from businesses through a newsletter, Lowe later said, &uot;I want to find a way (to communicate) that its both economical and timely.

&uot;My first and best way is to meet with a group,&uot; he said.

The mayor said he would hope that merchants who cannot or do not wish to attend the Merchants and Professionals Association

meetings form a group and select a spokesman.

According to Lowe, however, he had received overwhelming support from merchants for the guidelines.

In answer to another question, Lowe explained that the red garbage cans downtown are temporary