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Durango considers allowing restaurants to use a percentage of on-site parking for patio space

Businesses want to keep using outdoor spaces that came about during the pandemic
The city of Durango is considering amending its Land Use Development code to allow restaurants to convert 33% of on-site parking into patio space, after an emergency ordinance to allow for patios during the pandemic gained popularity with local businesses. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

An upcoming discussion for the Durango City Council will consider whether to amend the city’s Land Use Development Code to allow restaurants to use a percentage of private parking for patio space.

The proposed amendment would allow for commercial and mixed-use development to apply for a reduction of up to 33% of their required on-site parking to convert into commercial outdoor space with a special-use permit and up to 45% with a limited-use permit.

An emergency ordinance during the pandemic allowed the use of up to 25% of a restaurant’s on-site parking to be used as patio space. Restaurant owners who took advantage of that emergency ordinance have now asked the city for an amendment to the Land Use Development Code to allow for parking lot patios on a more permanent basis.

“Essentially, we are looking to codify this in the Land Use Development Code, and do away with the emergency ordinance,” said city planner Savannah Lytle. “We had quite a few business owners that had very successful patios.”

If approved, the commercial use of patios and outdoor dining areas would be limited to service of food and beverages. The amendment would also require businesses to develop a minimum of two bicycle parking spaces for every one parking lot space converted for patio use.

Lytle said that nationwide cities are working to figure out how best to amend land-use codes to allow for patios after businesses saw great success from various emergency ordinances during the pandemic.

“We’re just one of the many cities out there figuring this out right now,” she said.

The proposed amendment is not related to the bump-out patios that were used by businesses in downtown Durango during the pandemic.

“This is not for bump-outs. Those are all in the public right of way on city-owned property,” Lytle said. “Those bump-outs are a whole separate thing.”

Lytle said that an amendment like this would likely have little effect on availability of parking, as 33% of parking for most Durango restaurants accounts for only a couple of parking spaces.

“It’s not going to end up being a significant impact to available parking, like Union Social House’s patio is taking up one of its parking spaces,” she said.

The proposed amendment was recommended for approval by the Durango Planning Commission, and will be discussed during a City Council public hearing Jan. 18.

njohnson@durangoherald.com

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