As the COVID-19 pandemic put the survival of many Moab restaurants at risk, temporary parklets—spaces for outdoor seating in parking lots—were allowed last year under an emergency provision. However, the permits are scheduled to expire on June 30, 2021.

At their regular June 22 meeting, the Moab City Council discussed an amendment that would add guidance for outdoor dining areas to the normal municipal code.

The proposed ordinance would allow outdoor dining structures, including parklets, to be put up both year-round and seasonally, with new and updated regulations. However, the change was tabled after council members found issue with the wording of the ordinance, saying that it was repetitive and conflicting. The issue was rescheduled for June 30.

At a public hearing on June 10, four members of the public commented on parklets, some protesting that restaurants had parklets that disrupted other businesses in the area by impacting traffic flow and taking up valuable parking spaces.

“When the on the street dining began during the pandemic; in the summer of 2020, no one objected, because … we felt like it was a way we could all support each other,” a comment from Norm Boyd said. Boyd is the proprietor of Norm’s Center Street Barber, a business adjacent to parklets set up by neighboring restaurant 98 Center.

However, now Boyd feels that outdoor dining parklets unfairly favor restaurants over other businesses.

“It doesn’t seem right or equitable that the City would write into code a special dissension for only one business,” his comment said.

The proposed parklet regulations include a stipulation that “if a property is located on a corner, only one parklet is allowed per restaurant” and “the parklet has to be located on a street with lower volumes of traffic, and where the parklet will least disrupt entrances to other businesses,” according to the ordinance.

Seasonal parklets would also be allowed from March 1 to November 30. Parklet applicants would have to work with the City engineer and the Public Works director if they wanted to design a more substantial structure, and any additional lighting would have to comply with Dark Sky lighting provisions.

However, the Council took issue with the drafting and language of the ordinance. Since food trucks aren’t part of the zoning code, the ordinance wouldn’t apply to food truck owners, even if they were designing parklets. Councilmember Rani Derasary brought up that as a resident, it’s confusing if restaurants and food trucks follow different regulations.

Another issue came up with the zoning as defined in the ordinance—if a restaurant has a space for outdoor dining already, they’re not allowed a parklet, even if they don’t have that space already built. In addition, parklets are only allowed in “C3” zoning areas—Councilmember Kalen Jones suggested allowing outdoor dining in zones C5 and I1 as well.

Jones then recommended switching the wording of “Dark Sky” items to align more closely with the lighting ordinance code. As he flipped through the ordinance, Jones commented that he found repetitions of items and conflicting design criteria, saying that he felt the ordinance needed to be “cleaned up” before being presented to the council.

“There’s duplication and inconsistencies in this, and I’m not prepared to make a motion addressing them all,” Jones said.

The council has until June 30 to vote on an ordinance before existing permits expire.

Planning Director Nora Shepard said that if the new regulations don’t pass before June 30, current parklet operators will receive a 30-day notice saying that regulations have expired, and technically, “parklets will go away.”

The council moved to table the ordinance until Wednesday, June 30. The motion passed 4-0, as Councilmember Tawny Knuteson-Boyd recused herself from the discussion due to a financial conflict, as Norm Boyd is her husband. 

This article has been updated and corrected from its printed form.