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City of St. Helena

The city of St. Helena is setting up a new temporary use permit process that would allow short-term “pop-up” businesses to operate in vacant storefronts and other non-residential spaces.

On Tuesday, the Planning Commission recommended approval of an ordinance that would allow the planning director to approve the new temporary use permits without a public hearing at the Planning Commission or City Council. Pop-ups could include formula businesses.

Events like arts and crafts exhibits, farmers’ markets, festivals and food events would be able to operate for up to seven consecutive days, or six two-day weekends, within a 12-month period.

Indoor pop-ups like restaurants, retail sales, museums and art exhibits could operate for up to 90 consecutive days.

Seasonal sales lots such as Christmas tree farms and pumpkin patches could operate for up to 30 days.

Allowing pop-ups was one of the recommendations of Kosmont Companies, a consultant that analyzed ways to revitalize St. Helena’s downtown business scene. The City Council identified pop-ups as a high priority.

Planning Director Noah Housh said temporary use permits are very common in other cities, but St. Helena has never set up such a system until now.

The Planning Commission endorsed the draft ordinance written by staff, but asked for a few changes, such as preventing properties from hosting a continual series of pop-ups without commission approval and requiring breaks between temporary uses.

Commissioners also wanted pop-ups to be based on uses that are already allowed by zoning.

Commissioner Bobbi Monnette also wanted the city to set up a complaint mechanism by which people could raise concerns about a pop-up’s impacts, such as noise, light or traffic.

Housh said the city is setting up an online system to receive code enforcement complaints, and Commission Chair Lester Hardy said members of the public can air concerns during the commission’s public forum.

“The more members of the public who come to speak to us the better,” Hardy said.

The proposed ordinance is scheduled to go before the City Council on Oct. 23, and could be adopted in time for the upcoming holiday shopping season.

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