A proposal that would allow restaurants and eateries to set up cafe-style seating on select Langley streets has gotten an eager nod of approval from the City Council.
Waiving its policy to adopt an ordinance only after a second reading, the council last week unanimously approved rules that will govern such arrangements after a first reading.
“I think this is one of the best ideas to come down in a long time,” Councilman Hal Seligson said. “This will really change the atmosphere of the town … I think it’s just sensational.”
Dubbed the “Street Cafe” ordinance, the proposal is modeled after similar programs around the country but is largely the brainchild of Jeff Arango, Langley’s director of Community Planning.
The idea is simple: foster a pedestrian-friendly environment within the downtown area and bolster local commerce by providing new opportunities for applicable businesses.
“Ideally, we’d like to get to a point where we have streets or blocks of this with concentrations of restaurants,” Arango said. “Then you start to create a scene and an activity center and start to have economic benefits, not just for restaurants, but for retail businesses.”
Businesses that receive permits from the city could set up in two ways. They could make use of an existing sidewalk or convert parking spaces — two per business — for seating.
Those who opt to utilize parking spaces must go through a more lengthy permitting process with the city, as the project will have to be reviewed by the Design Review Board, a body that meets monthly.
Such seating will also have to be set up on a platform that is equal in height to the curb and have a fixed railing that separates the area from traffic. The barrier would not be required to withstand a collision with a car and can be visually softened with plants and flower baskets.
Both permit options will be allowed on a seasonal basis, from May 1 to Sept. 30. Arango said there are about 10 businesses that could capitalize on the new seating arrangement possibilities.
The new rules are something of a test bed and could provide the framework for later developments.
“If it does work and we have a huge outpouring of success, then that is going to guide future projects,” Arango said.
Langley Mayor Larry Kwarsick, who also worked on the street cafe ordinance, said the city should be doing everything it can to support local businesses and whole heartedly supports the program.
“I think it’s terrific,” Kwarsick said.