Sidewalk Sitting Ban Downgraded to 'Move Along, Please' | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Sidewalk Sitting Ban Downgraded to 'Move Along, Please'


The Burlington City Council tonight will review a revised plan to deter people from sitting on sidewalks throughout the city's inner fire district — largely the streets feeding into the Church Street Marketplace.

The revised plan would establish a pilot program to educate sidewalk sitters about the American with Disabilities Act guidelines that recommend a minimum five-foot-wide pedestrian right-of-way for all sidewalks. The education effort would inform people about two other city ordinances which prohibit "unnecessary interference" and "obstructing" city sidewalks.

The new effort stems from the rejection of a more strict ordinance that would have banned people from sitting or lying down on select downtown sidewalks.

The rejected ban would have affected Pearl, Cherry, Bank, College and Main Streets between South Winooski Avenue and St. Paul Street. It would have created a six-foot pedestrian right-of-way from the edge of a building. The Church Street Marketplace already has a nine-foot ban in place.

Photo credit: Matthew Thorsen

At the meeting, the three-member Ordinance Committee — comprised of Councilors Joan Shannon (D-Ward 5), Sharon Bushor (I-Ward 1) and Bram Kranichfeld (D-Ward 2) — said it was premature to enact a full-blown ordinance.

Instead, the committee hopes to find ways to encourage more cooperation among the various stakeholders — sidewalk sitters, business owners, police and city officials — rather than taking a punitive approach.

Tonight's resolution also refers the issue further to the city Public Works Commission to determine how such a five-foot right-of-way can be clearly identified for the public. The commission will be asked to report back to the council by September 1.