City Council creates ‘special event’ for downtown businesses

Owners can apply for temporary use permit to use sidewalk/street space

PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend City Council has unanimously approved a measure to allow business owners to apply for permits to use the streets and sidewalks adjacent to their businesses as retail and dining space.

The resolution is a expansion of the Open Streets Initiative that the city implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is aimed at making downtown more friendly for foot traffic while maintaining social distancing and sanitation procedures.

The resolution creates a “special event” through October, which allows for the businesses in the shoreline jurisdiction of Port Townsend to apply for temporary use permits, which would allow them to use the sidewalk and street space adjacent to their business for added seating, retail space or overflow for people wanting to enter the business, John Mauro, city manager, told the City Council Monday night.

The permitting fee of $250 is waived during the special event, he said.

Applying for a 60-day permit does not guarantee approval, council documents said.

The council will review the resolution in September, and if the program works, it will discuss what may need to be changed.

The City Council encourages comments as the program progresses to see how it impacts the community and what could be improved.

“I’ve been inspired by the number of people and businesses offering up their strong support for this initiative and by those who have respectfully expressed their concerns,” Mauro said.

“Creativity and community passion are huge assets here in Port Townsend that will help us get this right and give us the flexibility to evolve to meet ever-changing challenges.”

Some of the concerns raised during public comment Monday night were how the program would affect downtown parking and how safety of the areas would be managed.

Mauro described the resolution as an experiment, and as it progresses, city officials and businesses will work with each other to evaluate the trade-offs, he said.

Port Townsend Main Street Executive Director Mari Mullen said she supports the program.

“While it can be difficult to find the balance of what works across business sectors, we are supportive of the city’s efforts to promote social distancing and create a welcoming, pedestrian-friendly environment for our city,” she said.

The use of the streets and sidewalks could have been blocked by the city’s Shoreline Master Program if the special event hadn’t been created, Mauro said.

City officials and the Port Townsend Police Department are working to get information about applying to business owners, Mauro said.

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Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached by email at zjablonski@peninsuladailynews.com.

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