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Longmont City Council members expressed their unanimous support Tuesday night for a  proposal to close one lane of Main Street in either direction between Third and Sixth avenues, starting sometime in July and possibly lasting through the end of September.

Technically, the Council members’ actual vote was to approve a resolution between Longmont and the Colorado Department of Transportation for a special use permit for restaurant and retail use of part of the right-of-way of Main Street, which is also U.S. 287.

City staff and representatives of the Longmont Downtown Development Authority, whose board approved the lane-closing plan last week, did not during Tuesday’s Council meeting state the date when the lane closing is expected to commence.

One of those urging that the Council support the proposal as a way to help downtown businesses and their employees recover from the ongoing negative financial impacts of the coronavirus pandemic was Chris McGilvray, vice chairman of the Downtown Development Authority board and chairman of the Longmont Area Chamber of Commerce board.

“We’ve experienced sudden shuttering of many of our local businesses,” McGilvray said, particularly in the downtown, which he said is “the largest concentration of locally owned businesses in our community.”

McGilvray said closing down one of Main Street’s southbound lanes and one of its nortbound lanes, along with the elimination of curbside parking alongside those closed lanes, could “encourage us to slow down, hopefully, and buy stuff.”

However, the Council also heard from a pair of critics of the plan, Haydn Peacock, who owns the Chinese Medicine Clinic, at 385 Main St., and his wife, Christine Dominick.

Peacock said, “This proposal is going to cause chaos downtown” with its elimination of parking spaces that he suggested are crucial to the customers of businesses like his.

Dominick said a better idea would be to promote the use of alleys by restaurants and other businesses seeking to observe safe-social-distancing and masking requirements.

Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Kimberlee McKee said one possible way to accommodate the business owners on the west side of the 300 block of Main would be to shorten the closing of the southbound lane, limiting it to the two bocks between Sixth and Fourth avenues and leaving the on-street parking available on the west side of the 300 block.

But none of the Council members moved to make that a condition of their approval of the agreement with the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Councilwoman Polly Christensen urged that the plan include a bike lane for cyclists, and Mayor Brian Bagley expressed hope that the closings won’t add much time to what it takes people like him, who drive on Main from southside Longmont to commute to their workplaces north of the downtown.

“I think it’s a good experiment,” Councilwoman Joan Peck said, but she also asked what might be done if the city finds out after 45 days, for example, that it’s not working and is actually having a negative effect on some businesses.

Longmont Transportation Planning Manager Phil Greenwald said the city will be evaluating its traffic impacts and that if anything negative arises in those, the city can remove the concrete barriers that’ll be used to close the lanes.

“We have that ability, if things really go south on us,” Greenwald said.

 

 

 

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