CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Under a proposed planning bill, the city of Charleston would buy and maintain fencing for restaurants that want to offer outdoor dining to customers.
Members of Charleston City Council's planning committee met Thursday night to tweak the regulations they passed a year ago that govern outdoor dining in the city's central business district.
So far, only two restaurants along Capitol Street offer fenced-in outdoor dining -- Bar 101/Ichiban and Adelphia Sports Bar & Grille. There would be more if the cost of installing the fencing weren't so high.
So City Planner David Molgaard came up with a compromise. The city agrees to purchase, install and maintain fencing for restaurants if the restaurant owners agree to pay an annual $500 administrative fee.
"We don't want to discourage people because of the cost, but we want to make sure they have some skin in the game," Molgaard said.
Restaurants that want outdoor dining, but no fencing, would only pay $50 a year.
The city's goal is not to recoup costs with the $500 fee but to ensure that the restaurants make use of their outdoor dining areas, Molgaard said.
The city would ensure that the fencing is uniform throughout downtown and creates a standard, signature look. Councilman Courtney Persinger said he's currently looking at different fencing and would have some options to choose from before the bill goes before the Finance Committee.
It would cost about $4,000 to $5,000 per fence, but that does not include the cost of labor or regular maintenance.
"We can cover these costs in our budget," Molgaard said.
Also in the proposed bill is a requirement to widen the minimum 36-inch-wide free sidewalk area between the fence and curb to 42 inches. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires at least 36 inches for wheelchair accessibility.
The proposed bill also adds language that bans smoking in outdoor dining areas, as required by the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department's clean indoor-air regulation.