Parklet stays alive pending potential new ordinance
From staff reports
The parklet erected by Little Trouble at the corner of Main and San Antonio Streets has not yet served its last meal, with the Lockhart City Council granting it an indefinite stay of execution pending the potential creation of a long-term parklet program.
Following a lengthy discussion and presentations by local business owners, Council sent a proposed parklet ordinance back for further revisions to allow for the potential allowance of long-term parklets.
Council will decide whether parklets are a new feature of Lockhart or an early pandemic relic at a special meeting set for Tuesday, Dec. 14 and will invite Keep Lockhart Beautiful, the Lockhart Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Caldwell County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Lockhart Downtown Business Association to attend and provide their input.
Until then, the parklet was granted an indefinite temporary extension.
“I think it’s punitive to ask them to pull it down and then put it back up,” council member Kara McGregor said.
The parklet has made its temporary home by Little Trouble for 6 ½ months and has been granted multiple extensions, with a number of downtown business owners expressing their support for the semi-permanent patio, which its owners say is available for anyone to use.
City Manager Steve Lewis acknowledged the parklet served a purpose earlier this year, when restaurants were hit hard and there was an increased need for outdoor space and a reduced need for public parking downtown, noting that it allowed people who were only taking advantage of outdoor opportunities to go out and support local restaurants.
Lewis said cities considering long-term parklet programs had to think about long-term implications such as fire code issues, safety limitations and historic guidelines, as well as the equity on a long-term basis with local businesses and available parking.
“We’re kind of at a crossroads here,” Lewis said. “Parklets across the country contribute to the vitality of a street, but as the pandemic abates, the demand for street parking is going to increase. It’s that balancing act that goes on.”
During the council’s discussion, McGregor said her thought about what purpose a parklet serves in a community had evolved.
“I don’t see it as strictly as a pandemic measure,” she said. “It truly is a gathering spot for the community. I think the ordinance placed on the table is a great place for us to start, but it doesn’t get it done.
“I think we need to involve all of the downtown business owners. We’ve got big brains in the room and other cities have paved the ways that this can work. I think we also can revisit the alcohol ordinance, which is a little out of place with what we’re allowing. This would be a good time to address this.”
City Attorney Monte Akers said he approved of the council’s decision to have staff do more work on the proposed ordinance and have further discussions with the public.
“This is exactly what I hoped to hear tonight,” Akers said. “San Marcos has a design manual, and we’re just trying to do this rather arbitrarily. So I’d like to see a workshop to determine what this takes before deciding if you’re going to do it or how you’re going to do it.”