The Duluth City Council recently considered implementing a downtown road closure policy for special events, but decided against it.
The draft policy was discussed at the council’s Nov. 26 work session, but council agreed instead to monitor the frequency of road closing requests through the list of official events it adopts every February.
Whether streets would be closed would be indicated on the list.
“If something tremendous comes up, we’ll have to make an exception,” said Mayor Nancy Harris. “And it will have to be really great.”
The city usually only closes downtown streets for the Barefoot in the Park Festival in spring at the Duluth Fall Festival. This year downtown streets were also closed during the Duluth Music Festival in August, which prompted merchant complaints about noise. Alicia Williams, director of public information and marketing, said the city doesn’t plan to close streets for the music festival again.
The policy was drafted by city staff at the request of and with input from Dixie Huthmaker, who told the council that closing the streets hurt her business, Huthmaker Violins, located on Main Street.
The policy would have applied to Main Street, West Lawrenceville Street and Hill Street:
- Road Closings shall be limited to four (4) times per year for each downtown street (small walk/run/parade type closures may be allowed to exceed the (4) time per year limit if necessary with closure lasting approximately one (1) hour).
- Road closures are only allowed for a city sponsored or co-sponsored event, with the exception of walk/run/parade type closures that are approximately one (1) hour closure time.
- The city (via the event coordinator) will be required to inform all downtown merchants of the closing date and event details at a minimum of four (4) weeks in advance.
- No activities shall be allowed on a closed downtown street that will have noise levels too loud for merchants to conduct their regular business.
- Clear signage must be provided stating when the road will be closed, that downtown businesses are open for business and direct to alternate traffic flow and parking options.
- No food vendors shall be permitted to sell in the closed street that are in direct competition with an existing downtown restaurant.
- Walk/run/parade closures will be required to cover the costs of extra police presence needed due to the road closure.
A designated committee of city staff would have made the decision on road closures.
Councilwoman Marsha Bomar said she would like input from more merchants before adopting a policy.