Auburn restaurants may get sidewalk permit fees waived

In 2020, the city of Auburn adopted an ordinance to provide a temporary waiver of its ordinary right-of-way use-permit fees to provide its pandemic-afflicted restaurants with outdoor seating and help keep them out of the soup.

While the ordinance refers to Gov. Jay Inslee’s plans, it was written and adopted on the heels of his emergency proclamation on Feb. 29, 2020.

Since that time, the state has progressed through various phases of its reopening plans, the wording in the plans has changed, and the city’s ordinance doesn’t reflect that.

Now it’s time for a change.

“We wanted to update the ordinance to tie it to the current status of what’s happening with the emergency proclamation and the governor’s current guidelines,” Public Works Director Ingrid Gaub told the Auburn City Council on June 14.

Critically, Gaub said, the proposed ordinance would extend the temporary fee waiver 30 days beyond the date Inslee lifts the emergency proclamation, giving the two restaurants with current outdoor seating, and any future eateries that may be thinking of going that route, time to remove their facilities from the right of way or conversely, to apply for a normal right-of-way use permit and pay the regular fees to keep their al-fresco gigs going.

“What is the normal time for them to stay … and then how long will the extension continue?” Councilmember Yolanda Trout-Manuel pressed.

“What this ordinance does is change it to last as long as the emergency proclamation is in place from the governor. So, whether that is through the summer or into fall, we don’t know what that time frame is going to be because it will depend on what the governor’s actions are,” Gaub said.

“It gives the businesses the most flexibility for helping them to stay solvent during this time,” Gaub continued. “If they apply for that permit, it depends on how long they want to use the right of way. They can use it for up to five years, and the fee structure is on an incremental basis, depending on how many years of that use they ask for,” Gaub said.

Gaub said the city expects to make adjustments to the wording of its present right-of-way use permits, adding in language to ensure that restaurateurs are aware of that 30-day grace period.