Langley retailers to get green light to move outdoors

The Village by the Sea is planning to issue a proclamation allowing restaurants and retailers to expand outside in designated areas.

During a teleconferenced city council meeting Monday night, city leaders discussed an “out of the box” proposal the Langley Chamber of Commerce and Langley Main Street Association suggested as a way to support the downtown businesses.

The two organizations surveyed Langley business owners about making First Street only open to one-way traffic as a solution to expanding commerce by having restaurant seating and merchandise from retailers available on the street.

Langley Main Street Association Executive Director Michaleen McGarry stressed the importance of their idea being a temporary fix. She also suggested barriers could be set up so the outdoor expansion appears uniform.

Mayor Tim Callison responded that an ordinance for outdoor dining already exists and that the real question is if retail businesses should also be considered.

Councilman Thomas Gill expressed concern over providing extra paperwork for retailers.

“The more and more we put burdens on businesses, the less and less likely they’re going to take advantage of this,” Gill said.

Councilwoman Dominique Emerson responded that people she has talked to love the idea because they feel safer outdoors.

Callison agreed, comparing the partial street closure to how dining establishments in Europe operate.

“People are going to be looking to get out of the heavy traffic, urban areas and go someplace that’s open, fresh air, near the water,” he said.

Emerson pointed to the merchandise the Star Store has brought in from its mercantile to its grocery store and the success of that.

Langley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Inge Morascini said some retailers reported the outdoor expansion wouldn’t suit their merchandise, but view the idea favorably for other businesses.

Langley Police Chief Don Lauer cautioned that the partial closure of a street increases the opportunity for theft. He said the police department has responded to a recent increase in thefts in the area.

Councilwoman Christy Korrow asked if Second Street businesses could also be allowed to expand outdoors.

Callison agreed to work with Langley Community Planning Director Brigid Reynolds on developing a proclamation covering both dining and retail activities within Langley that will allow for use of streets, right of ways and private property for the purpose of extending business outdoors. It will build on existing ordinances for street cafes and public markets.

The motion for the mayor to begin working on a proclamation passed 5-0.

Council will be discussing the hours and days of the outdoor expansion, which may include the use of parking spaces. Callison said in an email that the city will not be closing or altering the traffic flow on First Street. When issued, the proclamation will apply to the core business district of Langley.

An earlier version of this story said the proclamation has already been issued. It is still in development.

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