Durango’s bump-out program is scheduled to sunset in November, but city staff members recommended Tuesday that the extension of Main Avenue businesses should stick around for a few more years, at least until a downtown redevelopment effort unfolds.
Bump-outs are eyesores to some and godsends to others. They were approved during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic to offset indoor capacity limitations set by state health officials. In that way, they benefited businesses, but they also took up space in the public right of way along Durango’s Main Avenue.
City Council did not make a formal decision Tuesday to keep the bump-out program in place, but councilors all supported exploring how to make the program stick around, with changes.
Chief among the proposed changes pitched by city staff members is the introduction of fees to businesses that use bump-outs.
Tommy Crosby, economic opportunity coordinator for the city, recommends the city impose bump-out fees between $500 and $1,000, in line with fee structures implemented in other cities across the state of Colorado.
There were two common methods for determining fees:
- In towns with paid parking spaces that are occupied by bump-outs, fees were structured to make up for lost parking meter revenue.
- In towns where paid parking meters aren’t impacted by bump-outs, fees were based on square footage of the space occupied.
The city and the Business Improvement District each surveyed businesses downtown to gauge their sentiments around bump-outs.
The BID’s survey in August was sent to about 350 businesses and garnered around 140 responses, Crosby said.
Support for bump-outs rivaled opposition to them, with 47% of respondents saying they wanted the bump-out program continued, possibly with changes; 45% saying they want the program discontinued; and 8% of respondents saying they prefer something else, according to data shared by Crosby.
The BID sent a letter to the city in support of “further exploration of the bump-out program with two conditions,” he said. A fair fee should be imposed to compensate the city for use of public right of way and so that taxpayers aren’t footing the bill to regulate them. And the design standards should be enhanced, including meeting standards consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The BID’s board of directors supports a 3- to 5-year extension of the bump-out program, assuming the conditions are met, Crosby said.
The city’s survey was sent directly to the 28 businesses that currently use bump-outs. The city received 21 responses.
“Twenty of those 21 bump-out hosts said that the program should continue,” Crosby said. “They said that it positively impacted their business and lastly, they said it positively impacted the revenue generated at that business.”
Seventeen of the responding businesses said they’d continue to use bump-outs even if the city charged a fee. Some businesses said they’d draw a line at $500 in fees, but at least one business said it would pay up to $3,500 in fees.
As far as bump-out impacts to city funds, Crosby said Durango’s Transportation Department lost out on $44,203.53 in parking meter fees so far this year. But he noted the businesses with bump-outs generate about $65,000 annually in sales tax revenues since the bump-out program started.
Crosby acknowledged that current conceptual designs for the city’s Downtown’s Next Step project, a major revisioning of Main Avenue’s layout, don’t include room for bump-outs. If the city pursued current design concepts, a “more robust version” of the city’s bistro program would be implemented instead of bump-outs, he said. The major difference between the two programs are that bump-outs occupy Main Avenue while the bistro program requires outdoor installments to be physically connected to the corresponding business.
City Council supported further research into what a longer-term bump-out program would look like.
Councilors Kim Baxter and Olivier Bosmans said they have been told by residents that current bump-outs have turned downtown Durango into something like a “flea market” and that people don’t appreciate historical buildings being obscured by bump-outs.
But otherwise, the two councilors were in agreement with Mayor Barbara Noseworthy and Councilor Jessika Buell that city staff members should spend more time developing a proposal for a new and improved bump-outs program.