SEQUIM — Looser sign restrictions, closing a portion of Washington Street this Fourth of July and supporting an increase in outdoor seating are the latest ways the Sequim City Council discussed to support businesses during Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Safe Start” plan.
The council unanimously agreed last week to close a portion of Washington Street on Independence Day to encourage people to visit businesses downtown.
Council member Troy Tenneson said the idea is “a win for businesses” and “provides a way for people to be in the open air and interact.”
Barry Berezowsky, director of community development, said he thinks it is a great idea and suggested it be expanded to other weekends.
City Manager Charlie Bush said in a phone interview that city staff and Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce representatives are contacting businesses to discover the level of interest in participating.
City staff members are investigating other cities’ efforts to close streets temporarily for events and permanently for a bigger effect.
“We are just exploring ideas,” Bush said.
Deputy Mayor Tom Ferrell said he felt it was a “great goal,” and he’d like a well-planned street fair where vendors come out with plenty of spacing.
“This is an exciting time,” he said. “I think this is an energetic step we take.”
Mayor William Armacost said it is an opportunity for the city “to expand our thinking outside the box.”
Bush also issued an emergency order with City Council members’ support to loosen enforcement in the city’s Municipal Code in late May so businesses could use temporary portable signs to bring more awareness to their establishment’s location, services and take-out and curbside orders during the pandemic.
Berezowsky said in May that, other than loosening the sign code regulations, there’s not much else they can do without investing more time in the ordinance.
“This policy would allow them to do whatever they wish to direct people to their place of business about hours, curbside, etc., so long as it does not impact pedestrians or traffic,” he said.
“It’s a step in the right direction.”
In the order, temporary signs’ faces must be 6 square feet or less and easily removable from a site.
They also can’t be placed in travel lanes, block sight distance at intersections or block pedestrian movement on sidewalks.
Berezowsky said the city holds the right to remove signs if rules are not followed.
He said if temporary signs become too prevalent, it could be difficult to “rein back in.”
He said his plan is to hold a conversation in the next year about the city’s sign code that includes temporary signs and group signage.
Another emergency order (No. 2020-27), the “Sequim Open Streets and Special Events Initiative,” looks to partner the city and local businesses and property owners on well-spaced seating, curbside pickup and sanitation.
Berezowsky said the city is exploring options for more outdoor seating.
“We’re working with the (Sequim-Dungeness Chamber of Commerce) for communication, particularly in downtown, to get a sense of what they’d like us to do,” he said.
City staff said the initiative provides multiple elements, such as providing picnic tables on city property, identifying parking spaces only for curbside pickup, scheduling street closures for safe shopping, allowing additional signage and outdoor seating, permitting art shows and performances in public spaces, locating hand sanitation near seating areas and at intersections and, with discretion from the Public Works and Community Development directors, temporarily waiving fees required for special event permits.
The initiative will be in effect until COVID-19 emergency orders are lifted.
For more information, call the City of Sequim Department of Community Development and Public Works Department at 360-683-4908.
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at email@example.com.