The city of Taylor has introduced ordinances that will reduce the speed limit near its main high school campus and perhaps help businesses in a COVID-19 world.
On May 28, the Taylor City Council held public hearings on two ordinances introduced. Staff recommended approving the ordinances, which the council can elect to do at a future meeting.
One ordinance is to reduce the speed limit on FM 973 from Carlos Parker Boulevard to near Wesley Miller Lane. The highway section runs adjacent to Taylor High School.
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) requested the speed reduction because of growth and increased traffic in the area. The change will reduce the speed from 65 to 60 mph. Taylor’s city limits end near Miller Lane.
“It actually becomes TxDOT after there, and they’ll do the change on their end,” said Jim Gray, public works director, “so we’ll only be changing the end that’s in the city limits area at this time.”
The other ordinance introduces a parklet program for the city that would expire in the fall. A parklet is an area licensed for use by a business or property owner to create an outdoor area for patrons and the public. Parklets are placed on part of a public street’s right-of-way, typically parking spaces.
“It is something that is related to the situation that we find ourselves in related to COVID-19 and the need to help businesses provide some additional outdoor seating space,” said Tom Yantis, assistant city manager. “While it would really apply across town, primarily in downtown is where it would be of benefit.”
City staff has researched how other cities have used public right-of-ways for parklets. San Marcos adopted their parklet ordinance in 2015 and recently updated it to allow more flexibility due to COVID-19. Dallas also recently established a temporary parklet program in response to COVID-19.
Councilmember Robert Garcia asked about liability, costs and where parklets could not be placed. Yantis noted that people or businesses requesting a parklet have to carry liability insurance coverage and name the city as an additional insurer. Costs incurred for each project such safety, lining and barriers are also the responsibility of parklet requestors. Parklets would not be allowed on Main Street since the road is also State Highway 95 and controlled by TxDOT.
“(TxDOT) currently do not have a program that allows for these,” said Yantis, “although I know that there are a number of cities that are trying to get TxDOT to work with them in their downtown areas to allow this sort of program.”
The program is set to expire in September, at which time the parklets could be removed. However, Yantis noted that other cities have renewable programs.
“You want to always be evaluating the effectiveness of the program,” he said, “and not have those licenses last so long that you couldn’t remove them if need be.”
Mayor Brandt Rydell said parklets allow another way for consumers to confidently patronize a business during the COVID-19 pandemic. Parklets could provide more social distancing in an open-air environment.
“I think this is an exciting program. This has been initiated by some cities but you’re not seeing a lot of this,” said Rydell, “so in some ways, Taylor is going to be kind of taking a lead position along with some of our sister cities who’ve been doing this already, and I’m very curious how this is all going to play out, but I think this is a good step.”