Mayor Collins: Sidewalk dining must change to meet ADA rules

By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor

“Yes,” Glens Falls Mayor Bill Collins tells The Chronicle. “We have a new application for outdoor dining permits. A few restaurants will see some changes.

“Ever since last year, I received over a dozen complaints from residents, sometimes over events, some over chairs, that anyone in a wheelchair or even walking had to walk around the chairs.”

He said Fire Chief James Schrammel “last year brought me a thing called PROWAG, the Federal Public Rights-of-Way Accessibility Guidelines.”

“Much to our dismay,” Mayor Collins writes in a letter to restaurant owners, “our past practices did not meet these long-established guidelines.”

To The Chronicle, he adds, “It’s not new, not a new law, but we were previously unaware of the 5-foot minimum space required on the sidewalk…We have to fix it so we are not in violation any more…Any ideas after that, the City would consider.”

“Some [restaurants] will have to have changes. We wanted to get these out to the restaurants in time to get approved in time for their season.”

The deadline to make the next Planning Board meeting is April 19.

Staff writer Zander Frost adds: At an information session Tuesday evening at Crandall Public Library, the Mayor explained that “decorative brick does not count as part of the sidewalk,” because it has “signs and obstructions.” That has big ramifications for outdoor dining.

Several business owners told the Mayor the changes would drastically curtail their outdoor seating. The Mayor said he would work with them, but that this is necessary change to comply with the law.

Mayor Collins projected images of what he said are samples of violations of the 5-feet rule, including at Mean Max, Flight and Craft on 9.

Mayor Collins was emphatic that he did not want to be viewed as shutting down Glens Falls business.

He said the city is considering Manhattan style rules — where the City would lease parking spaces to restaurants for outdoor seating.

One audience member said, “If I had to pick one, get rid of the brick, leave the parking!”

A second public information meeting is today, Thursday, April 6, at 2 p.m. at Crandall Public Library.

Rick Davidson: ‘Outdoors drives our business; we researched ADA’

Chronicle Managing Editor Cathy DeDe writes: The small handful of restaurants contacted by The Chronicle in advance of the City’s meetings were generally positive if non-committal in their publicly expressed expectation to work with Mayor Bill Collins on the new encroachment permit requirements for outdoor dining.

Rick Davidson, of Davidson’s Brewery and Restaurant, said, “This doesn’t affect Davidson’s because we’ve always been in compliance. The five-foot right of way is nothing new. When we opened in 1996, there weren’t many encroachments at the time, so we went the extra step,” not only going before the Planning Board, but initiating a workshop meeting.

He says he and his partner, brother John Davidson, themselves brought in an urban planner, architects and other specialists to define what was acceptable for outdoor dining in the City, according to Americans with Disability Act rules.

“The reason we bought this building was because the only way this whole thing works is to have those two rows of seats out there,” on Exchange Street Plaza, in the warm months. “It was in our business plan before we even bought the building. We had to have 30 tables outside or it didn’t make sense,” he said.

Mr. Davidson noted, more globally, all these years later, “The restaurants in downtown are the sales tax generator,” emphasis on “the.”

He expressed interest that encroachment rules apply to all downtown businesses, including retail.

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