By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – The Green Bay city council paved the way for local businesses to expand their spaces into the streets with its approval of a parklet policy at its meeting Monday, June 29.
A parklet resembles decks or patios that are placed within parking spaces on city streets to allow businesses to offer more seating during the COVID-19 pandemic.
District 9 Alder Brian Johnson, who brought forward the proposal, said the proposal was inspired by similar policies in the state, and is just one way the city can help.
“What I’m trying to create is one tool, in what needs to be a very large tool box to help our businesses that need ways to spread out,” Johnson said. “And I think this is just one of those tools that can do that.”
The approved ordinance allows businesses to utilize up to two parking stalls with an annual fee of $200 per stall from May 1 to Oct. 31.
While the approval of the parklets is timely amidst the pandemic, the policy is intended to be continued each year.
The original ordinance passed by committee called for fees to reflect what it costs to bag a meter for a day, $10, multiplied by the number of weeks the parklet would be utilized – which if used the entire time would cost nearly $2,000.
Johnson said he felt the fee was too steep, especially now, and proposed an amendment calling for a flat $200 permit fee.
“A $200 permit fee is in alignment with what other communities are doing,” he said. “And something that if you go much higher makes it cost prohibited and will really be a deterrent for businesses in terms of wanting to do this.”
Some alders were leery of the amended fee amount because of the shortfall it will cause the parking utility, and no plan in place to make it up.
Department of Public Works Director Steve Grenier estimates a shortfall of around $1,000 per stall used.
“I like this idea, and am very much in favor of it,” said District 4 Alder Bill Galvin. “But at the same time, we have to be cautious. It’s pushing us into a corner that is very hard for us to make a budget and to do the improvements to this community that need to be done. I don’t want to get stars in my eyes about a great project and hurt the city at the same time. It makes no sense to do that.”
This year, city staff will look at using TID funds, as well as CARES funds, to help offset the short falls the parklets may cause the parking utility.
Johnson submitted a late communication at Monday’s meeting to have the permit fee waved for businesses this year in the wake of the hardships facing many small businesses.
That proposal will be taken up at committee sometime in the future.
Johnson said he is also working with staff on the possibility of creating a grant program to help businesses with the initial parklet construction costs.
State of emergency extension
For the third time, the council voted to extend the State of Emergency for the City of Green Bay, which was initially enacted March 17.
The extension gives city administration authority to act quickly, if needed to protect public order, life, health and safety of the residents of the city.
The state of emergency automatically expires at 5 p.m. July 22, unless extended by the council.
Mayor Eric Genrich said staff is hoping to have a sort of hybrid meeting July 21 – with some meeting in person, in council chambers and others meeting remote.
“So folks that would like to meet in person we will be asking people to take the appropriate safety measures to be distanced and wear face coverings when in council chambers,” Genrich said. “That will hopefully be an option for alders for our July meeting.”