THE “BUMP OUT” AT ISSUE in front of Crêpes Ooh La La! on Depot Square. The projecting area of new sidewalk is a public space, as opposed to the sidewalk itself, which is owned the condominium association. As of Tuesday, June 12, the offending table and chairs had been moved back to the main sidewalk. See accompanying code enforcement story. (Thomas Beeler photo) (click for larger version)
June 14, 2012WOLFEBORO — One complaint leads to another, Wolfeboro selectmen discovered at their June 6 meeting.
The town recently completed a major reconstruction of Central and Railroad Avenues and Depot Square that involved providing wheelchair access to the sidewalks on those downtown streets. One result for the sidewalk at the end of Railroad Avenue leading into Depot Square was the creation of a "bump out" or extended section of sidewalk alongside the new wheelchair curb cut.
Rather than letting that new space remain empty, adjoining restaurant Crêpes Ooh La La! placed a table and chairs on the spot, and that in turn led to a complaint to the town about a private business making use of a public space.
Selectman Chair Linda Murray raised the question on May 28 of whether or not permission was given to move the table and chairs onto the bump out and whether use of the table and chairs was restricted to patrons of the restaurant. Town Manager Dave Owen responded that no permission had been given. Town Planner Rob Houseman suggested that the restaurant sponsor the table and chairs and make it clear with a sign that it is public seating.
The issue was placed on the agenda for the June 6 selectmen's meeting. Public Works Director Dave Ford said he thought the table and chairs looked nice. He added that the rebuilding of Depot Square, while done for Americans with Disabilities Act purposes, was also intended to break up a large asphalt area and make it pedestrian/visitor-friendly, with flowers beds and period streetlights like those at Dockside.
Murray said her objection was that the table and chairs were not from the town but a business and there was a sign that reserved the table for customers of Crêpes Ooh La La!
Selectman Dave Bowers agreed that any seating should be provided by the town.
Selectman Sarah Silk expressed concern about liability, adding that the Parks and Recreation Department has a policy about public benches and that the seating should not be provided by one business.
Selectman Dave Senecal said he agreed.
The board voted 4-0 to have the table and chairs moved and replaced with town benches. Selectman Chuck Storm is recovering from knee surgery and was not present.
At the public input section at the end of the meeting Rick Eaton from Crêpes Oh La La! addressed the board, saying that the restaurant will remove the table and chairs from the bump out space as requested.
He went on to say "I feel we have been singled out in this case." He cited Bailey's Bubble having tables and chairs on the sidewalk and pointed out that Bradley's Hardware uses the sidewalk in front of it store for displays and other uses.
He also complained that the town's sign ordinance is not enforced. He said his restaurant went to the planning board and got approval for adding a takeout window but claimed that the Yum Yum Shop added a takeout window without approval and also added an illegal third sign.
He said the town's ordinance prohibits lighted vending machines and yet the Sunoco station right across from Town Hall has one.
"I would like to ask the town to enforce all ordinances," he concluded, handing in photos of the claimed violations.
Town Manager Owen assured Eaton that Code Enforcement Officer Audrey Cline would get his complaint and respond.
Eaton was followed by Rhonda Martin, owner of Crêpes Oh La La! She questioned the four designated sidewalk vending sites in town, which she understood are supposed to be used a minimum of three months a year. Two of the assigned sites are not being used now, and the one on the bridge was not used at all last year.
She said she would like to use the one on Main Street at Cate Park near Bridge's Hallmark and asked the town to revoke the license and allow her to use the spot. She added that existing businesses like hers are supposed to get preference in space assignments.
Owen said he would look into the matter and get back to Martin.