Windsor reviews regulation of downtown parks

The City of Windsor has expanded a temporary program that allows downtown restaurants and retailers to have outdoor seating areas, known as parclets, a measure initially instituted in 2020 to help businesses suffering from due to pandemic-era operational restrictions that limited indoor seating.

The council last Wednesday voted 5-0 to extend the temporary outdoor dining and retail program 45 days. And the council voted 3-2 to amend the city’s zoning code, as part of a three-year pilot program, to include regulations governing park design and construction, among other factors.

Mayor Rosa Reynoza, who proposed removing the existing parks for a year to clarify rules and allow nearby buildings to be maintained, and Vice Mayor Sam Salmon voted against the zoning code change.

“I don’t understand where we’re going to go,” Salmon said. He also said the parclets were in keeping with the existing architecture.

Feedback from Windsor residents showed 41 percent were “generally opposed” to continuing the parks program, while 41 percent were “generally in favor,” said Kevin Locke, a city planner.

Richard Bellomo, owner of a jewelry store, Something Special, said a survey he conducted of downtown business owners showed that, “most stores, we don’t want the parklets.”

He said they took up parking spaces, which deterred customers. “We’re losing customers, I can see it in my numbers,” he said.

But Bellomo was in the minority of those who spoke at the March 15 meeting.

“We’re all struggling,” said JC Adams, co-owner of a restaurant, KIN, which has a park. “This has nothing to do with parking, this has to do with the economic times we are in. .”

Beth Henry, executive director of the Windsor Chamber of Commerce, said the parklets contribute to the city’s goal of a downtown with a “walkable character.”

The three-year pilot “is an attractive opportunity for restaurants and tasting rooms and other businesses to thrive in our downtown,” Henry said.

Locke said the proposed regulation — which the City Council still needs to give final approval, likely in April — would limit parklets to a maximum of three parking spaces each; it would allow a maximum of 20 places to be occupied for all the parks together; would allow 15 to be the whole year; and would ban canopies.

But the city currently envisions the parks would take up just 13 parking spaces, Locke said. In addition, each park would generate between $2,400 and $7,200 in annual rent for the city, depending on the size, he said.

Council member Mike Wall, who supported the three-year pilot program, said business owners who already have parklets would not have to make major changes to them under the new ordinance.

“I really want to stress that if we’re going to move forward, don’t make it so difficult for the owners that it’s difficult to comply,” Wall said.

Writer Jeremy Hay can be reached at 707-387-2960 or [email protected] On Twitter @jeremyhay