The Durango City Council on Tuesday night abandoned a proposal to replace unsightly or unsafe rows of newspaper boxes on Main Avenue with centrally located "condominiums," but a plan is in place that all but ensures many boxes will be short-lived on downtown sidewalks in 2009.
Tuesday's public hearing was scheduled to allow councilors and residents to review a revised draft ordinance that would give city staff full discretion over the placement of distribution boxes in the central business district. On Dec. 16, councilors unanimously rejected a draft in which staff recommended the condominium proposal.
Under the new ordinance, all newspaper boxes, racks or vending machines will be allowed only on downtown sidewalks with the approval of the city manager's office and purchase of a $30 annual permit per box.
"This is a step in the right direction," Councilor Doug Lyon said.
Public comment was light; only The Durango Herald General Manager Sharon Hermes and Circulation Director Julio Goicoechea spoke at the hearing and both indicated the newspaper's support of the amended ordinance.
Hermes said the placement of the proposed condominiums, which would have been on side streets adjacent to Main Avenue, could have had an adverse affect on visibility and accessibility for the Herald and other publications.
"We feel they need to be on Main and not around the corners," Hermes said.
The ordinance also would require all boxes and racks to be placed at least 2 feet from curbs and allow at least 6 feet for pedestrian traffic between the boxes and buildings. Also, boxes would have to be clear of any parking meters, fire hydrants, bicycle racks, public telephones or kiosks.
The city manager's office would have sole discretion to determine the number of boxes or racks allowed per block, and permits would be issued on a first-come, first-served basis. Maintenance and repair of the boxes would be the responsibility of the boxes' owners.
City Council will vote on the newspaper box ordinance at its regular meeting Jan. 20.