The days of chairs being placed along the streets of Warren in mid-June to ensure front-row seating for the Fourth of July parade have likely ended.
At its meeting Monday night, City Council approved a resolution that limits any "type of seating, including, but not limited to, chairs benches, and blankets (from being) placed upon any sidewalk, public right-of-way, or City property adjacent to a parade route in excess of seventy-two hours prior to a parade."
The measure, covering all parades that occur in the city, was passed unanimously.
Chairs lined up along street for parade
The resolution also requires that all seating be removed by 9 p.m. the day of a parade.
It further states, "The placement of cones or other objects, cordoning, or otherwise making by any means any sidewalk, public right-of-way, or City property adjacent to a parade route for purposes of reserving a parade viewing area is prohibited."
"City staff recognize that early placement of lawn chairs is long-standing tradition and we would like to see this continue," Acting City Manager Mary Ann Nau told council during Monday's meeting. However, she cited several "significant public health and safety concerns," including problems for people exiting cars, a hindrance for emergency personnel, and a safety concern during high-wind storms.
Nau also said that the mowing contractor is required to put in additional time removing chairs while mowing.
A fact sheet outlining city officials' rationale for bringing the resolution to council also claims, "This practice detracts from the appearance of the City's investment in downtown improvements and enhancements. Chairs are being placed so far in advance of the parade that visitors to Warren have no association that the various forms of seating may be there for a pending celebration and are likely left with a poor visual impression of the City."
Nau said there were a "considerable amount of comments this year...either it looked worse this year" or presented different concerns.
"This is a resolution for all parades," Council Vice President Maurice Cashman said, "not just July 4th."
The proposed resolution presented at the meeting would have limited placement of parade seating to 6 p.m. on the day preceding the parade.
"I'm totally against it," Councilman Jim Zavinski said. "I think it's horrible." He proposed that the time for chair placement be extended to one week before the parade. "It seems like we're taking everything away," he added.
"I agree," Councilman Sam Harvey said. "I think a week is a good period."
Harvey explained that he appreciated the tradition, indicating that it was refreshing to know that people cared about the Fourth of July parade.
One entity that is not against the resolution is the Fourth of July Parade Committee. Wally Post said on Wednesday that the three-day limit is a "great idea," as the placement of chairs was "getting out of hand."
While noting that chair placement is a "great tradition, we love to see it done," Post also said that the restriction will afford the committee more time and less competition for space, to place bleachers and other features along the route.
Parade Chairman Bill Thompson agreed. "I'm okay with that," he said of the resolution. "I don't think it will cut down from the people coming in. It's a Warren tradition of people putting their chairs out. June first of this year was when the first chair hit the street. Maybe it's getting a little bit extreme."
Al Kuppertz, who spoke to the Times Observer while he was placing chairs along Pennsylvania Avenue with his wife last month, doesn't agree with the change. "I guess if that's what they want to do, I think it's kinda killing the tradition. Everyone has always done that and people always clean up," he said.
He lauded the tradition, saying, "I think it makes it nice. Just a nice family thing. The older people do that because they're not going to stand that long."
"This is an overall safety issue," Cashman said at council's meeting. "Safety should always be number one on your mind." To admit a safety concern and extend the period to a week is "making yourself much more liable," he added.
Nau also noted that there are incidents of chairs being thrown into the street in the weeks prior to the parade. "If you talk to the (police) officers, they would tell you that happens on a frequent basis," Police Chief Raymond Zydonik said.
"I've always liked the tradition of the chairs," Councilman John Lewis said. "The most I'd like to see is 72 hours...would limit the exposure of liability."
"I think three days is sufficient," Cashman said.
Nau pointed out that the resolution would limit placement of chairs "preceding any parade. We're not targeting the Fourth of July parade." She said that the provision was brought to council as a resolution and not an ordinance so that it would be easier to modify if needed.