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FARMINGTON — Businesses in the downtown corridor can apply for variances that will allow them to use the sidewalks for outdoor dining or retail.

The City Council unanimously approved a temporary permit process for the downtown corridor in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions that it has placed on restaurants and stores. The council met on June 23. A recording of the City Council meeting can be found at fmtn.org.

While the temporary permit is only good through Nov. 1, the city hopes to develop a permit process that will allow businesses to utilize the public right of way in the future even after the pandemic has passed.

"I think this is a good start and I'm excited," said Councilor Linda Rodgers.

City Manager Rob Mayes said the permit is for the Main Street businesses because of the conditions that exist. Those businesses do not have parking lots to expand into and open directly onto public right of way.

However, Mayes said if there is a business outside the downtown corridor that faces the same conditions, the city will consider permits for outdoor retail and dining in the public right of way at those locations as well. 

"This is downtown-focused because in fact we are not aware of any other place that there actually is public right of way that could potentially be used for dining," Mayes said. 

Economic Development Director Warren Unsicker said there have already been applications filed for variances in the downtown corridor.

The newly-constructed sidewalks are 15-feet wide in some places. The permit process requires an application that will outline the area where the dining or retail will take place. The variance will not allow the business to fully block the sidewalk or to be too close to the road.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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