Originally created 12/16/00

Sidewalk ordinance approved



SAVANNAH - Sometimes, Wayne Dawson has trouble navigating the sidewalk.

He is restricted by a wheelchair, and needs 3 to 4 feet of clearance to get by. Sometimes, the space is just not there.

Restaurants set up outdoor tables, chairs and planters on the sidewalks. Newspaper boxes and advertising racks further crowd the way.

"There are only curb cuts at each end of the street," said Mr. Dawson, executive director of the Savannah-Chatham County Fair Housing Council. "If you're blocked, you have to get through there, or you are resigned to go out onto the street, and that's not safe."

The city council approved an ordinance Thursday intended to eliminate such "clutter" from the Historic District. The ordinance allows the city manager to create rules that would help regulate how far into the public right of way businesses and restaurants can encroach.

Debbie Shea, owner of the Tucson Grill on Broughton Street, said that might not be a bad idea, so long as the regulations are within reason.

Her restaurant has three tables on the sidewalk in front of her business.

"I do think there does need to be some kind of consistency as far as where we can and can't have them - as long as it is done with fairness," Ms. Shea said.

She said she would be opposed to any restriction on the type of chairs and tables allowed outside.

Michael Faber, owner of Clary's Cafe, which also has sidewalk dining, agreed.

"If it is regulated with common sense, I think it's a good thing," Mr. Faber said. "I think the ambiance of outside dining adds to the charm of any city worldwide. There should be a standard maintained, or you lose that charm."