Some parking spaces may become “parklets” to help businesses reopen in Gettysburg.
Borough council members expressed support for the concept Tuesday.
Merchandise or restaurant tables could potentially go in the spaces, officials said.
The proposed “parklets” pilot program would effectively increase square footage available to businesses to assist with social distancing, Borough Manager Charles Gable said.
The goal is to help “get all our businesses up and running again,” he said.
Also, space rental fees paid by businesses would help make up for parking revenues which have “cratered” because of empty streets during the pandemic, Gable said. Such revenues usually provide nearly a quarter of the borough’s income.
The “bold and out-of-the-box” program would take effect when the county switches to the state’s green phase of pandemic precautions, Gable said.
Borough personnel would build decorative boxes over protective barriers, and the yet-to-be-determined design would comply with handicapped-access rules, he said.
Goals would also be to create a welcoming ambiance, walkable environment, and encourage drivers to slow down, Gable said.
Input will be sought from businesses, the borough’s Historic Architectural Review Board, and the Gettysburg Garden Club, which maintains downtown flowers, he said.
“We don’t want it to look like downtown Baghdad,” Gable said.
It is time to reconsider the current ordinance banning outdoor consumption of alcohol except in designated restaurant outdoor-seating areas, council member Jake Schindel said.
Obtaining necessary permits from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation may be a slow and difficult process, council member John Lawver warned.
Project costs would be recouped through rental fees, borough Planning Zoning and Code Enforcement Director Carly Marshall said.
Parklets could include one or multiple parking spaces, she said.
Beginning as a pilot program means no ordinance amendment would be needed, and would allow the plan to be tweaked or terminated as more is learned, Marshall said.
Officials agreed care will be needed to make sure spaces are offered fairly to all businesses.
Trash collection implications also need to be considered, council member Wesley Heyser said.
Such parklets are in place in Wrightsville in York County, which borough officials said they plan to visit to learn more.
Council members agreed to broaden a zero-interest loan program already in place to help borough businesses hard-hit by the pandemic.
Businesses that have been partly open or have offered online sales are now eligible.
The council established a revolving loan program April 27, with enough funds to provide loans of $3,000 each to approximately 50 businesses. Not even half that many businesses have pursued the loans so far, borough Finance Director Nicolette James said.
Two weeks ago, the council dropped a previous rule that excluded businesses that have received federal or state aid.
Encouraging downtown visitation without access to public restrooms is potentially problematic, council member Patricia Lawson said.
The borough lacks personnel to sanitize restrooms after each use or money to rent portable toilets, Gable said.
Gable said he would ask Destination Gettysburg, the countywide tourism agency funded by a tax on overnight lodging, for assistance.
Businesses may wish to open their restrooms as a matter of customer service, Gable said.
Pending federal Community Development Block Grant funding designated for COVID-19 purposes may be a source too, council member Wesley Heyser said.
Also, council member John Lawver asked whether the county’s switch to the state’s yellow lockdown category meant the borough could dispense with the curfew imposed as part of its COVID-19 disaster declaration. The declaration extended the curfew already applicable to minors to include adults not engaged in an authorized activity.
Police Chief Robert Glenny said he had no objections to removing the adult curfew, saying its primary purpose was to help protect closed businesses that are now beginning to reopen. Council members concurred.
Issues were discussed Tuesday during both the council’s workshop meeting and a brief special business meeting regarding labor issues.