Outdoor dining rules floated for downtown

Posted: February 8, 2013

The Winchester Star

Employees of Patton's Masonry in Edinburg work Wednesday on the foundation of the new self-sanitizing public restroom facilities, which are part of the Infrastructure Improvement Project on the Loudoun Street Mall. Construction on the $7.1 million project began Jan. 2 and is scheduled for substantial completion by April 30. The city will maintain the restroom at no additional cost to downtown merchants. There will be a charge to use the facilities, but the cost has yet to be determined. A decision will be made before the end of the project. See a chart showing the progress on the Loudoun Street Mall, Page B3 (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)
Workers from HRI Inc. install a water line in the south block of the Loudoun Street Mall Thursday afternoon. (Photo by Scott Mason/The Winchester Star)

WINCHESTER — Proposed guidelines for outdoor dining areas downtown have been forwarded to the Winchester Planning Commission from the Old Town Development Board (OTDB).

City Planner Will Moore told board members at Thursday’s meeting that the commission is to discuss the possible changes this month. The new rules would be incorporated into broader zoning ordinance amendments regarding the use of public space by restaurateurs and retailers and forwarded to City Council for action.

The rules were developed by the OTDB’s Design Committee and approved by that panel on Jan. 17. Their target is regulation of the use of public space in the primary and secondary taxing district — the area bound by Piccadilly, Cameron, Cork and Braddock streets.

Guidelines for furniture and fixtures, planters and barriers are the key components of the regulations.

Tables, chairs and planters are to be stone or metal. Tables and chairs “may not be fluorescent or of a strikingly bright or vivid color,” the guidelines state, and planters “must compliment the design of barrier fencing and the overall aesthetic of Old Town.”

Umbrella dimensions, design and materials are addressed, as is the maximum height for planters. Plants must be live and cannot be taller than 9 feet.

Fencing must be metal and black in color. It must be freestanding and not attached to a building or the sidewalk. Height and accessibility rules also are established.

Restaurateurs meeting the guidelines can have their plans approved quickly by city staff. Those who prefer to have features that don’t meet the guidelines will have to go through one or more city boards to gain approval, and their plans can be rejected.

Potential celebrations for the completion of the ongoing construction project on the Loudoun Street Mall also were shared at the meeting. An ice cream social with entertainment and an event themed after the BBC television show “Downton Abbey” were mentioned.

Also discussed were the creation of two or three task forces to deal with specific projects.

Both the OTDB and City Council have made branding downtown a priority, and one task force would focus on that effort.

“We need to give an excellent immediate first impression of Winchester,” board member Marilyn Finnemore said.

Board members expect a company to be hired for the branding project. Vice-Chairman Stan Corneal said the Virginia Main Street program might provide a grant to help the city cover the cost.

The other task-force efforts will focus on establishing a public arts policy and creating an arts and cultural district.

Moore explained that the policy would govern art on public land citywide, while the arts district likely would provide incentives for artists who establish workspace or galleries in a specific area. While the pedestrian mall might be the first place that comes to mind, it might not be the best place.

“If vacancies are low on the Loudoun Street Mall,” he said, “maybe we want to look at the industrial corridor and attract sculptors and glass blowers, artists like that.”

The board members also discussed the committee work plans developed at the retreat that preceded the meeting.

Rick McClendon, chairman of the board’s Organization Committee, said the panel needed other committees to identify which work-plan items would require volunteer help.

Downtown Manager Jennifer Bell has said she wants to recruit volunteers to help in various ways, and the Organization Committee will take the lead in recruiting, training and managing them.

Attending the meeting at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley were Chairwoman Lauri Bridgeforth, Vice-Chairman Stan Corneal and board members Brenda Adams, Kim Burke, Scott Dawson, Marilyn Finnemore, Cory Garman, Melinda Kramer and Rick McClendon.

— Contact Vic Bradshaw at vbradshaw@winchesterstar.com