Merchants in historic downtown Littleton now will be able to display their wares on sidewalks with the city’s blessing — three days each month.
The City Council approved the formal change May 6, even though the city rarely enforced previous restrictions and allowed the displays unless someone complained.
The new rules will allow merchants in C-A and B-2 zones, which encompasses most of downtown, to display items and advertisements up to 6 feet away from their stores on public rights-of-way. The merchants will have to apply for a free permit from the city and will be limited to three displays a month.
“The whole goal was to ensure merchants could display legitimately and improve the pedestrian environment of downtown,” said Deputy City Manager Mike Braaten. “It came down to an issue where we had merchants complain about other merchants and pedestrians complain about some of the existing displays. That’s when we decided to move forward with this.”
Braaten said the original proposal didn’t limit the number of display days, but council members asked last year that a limit be added. At the time, Braaten said, the council wanted downtown merchants to coordinate special events when merchandise could be displayed outside. Special outdoor events would not county toward the three-day-a-month limit.
A proposal from Councilman Randy Stein to drop the allowed days to two a month failed to pass during the public hearing.
During the hearing, a long line of downtown merchants spoke against the three-day-a-month limit and the requirement that merchants apply for the permits a year in advance.
One downtown retailer said businesses that display items and advertisements responsibly shouldn’t be punished for the irresponsible actions of a few.
Another said tying businesses’ hands a year in advance would limit their ability to respond to the ever-changing retail market. That provision was removed.
During the vote to approve the ordinance, one spectator was asked to leave the meeting after yelling at council members.
The measure passed on a 5-1 vote, with Councilman Jerry Valdes voting no because he opposed limiting the number of days of display. Council member Bruce Beckman was not present during the meeting.