Breckenridge OKs temporary fire pits outside businesses this winter
BRECKENRIDGE — Gas fire pits will be allowed outside Breckenridge businesses this winter.
Breckenridge Town Manager Rick Holman issued a town manager’s order that allows businesses to use temporary gas fire pits without penalty under the town’s development code.
The current sustainability code allows fire pits only if the business offsets the negative environmental impact in some way. The new order puts that requirement on hold as long as the fire pit is portable and temporary.
The order allows restaurants, for example, to create outdoor spaces for groups who are waiting for a table since they can no longer use traditional indoor waiting areas because of capacity limits.
Holman said in the order that not allowing businesses to use fire pits would “prevent, hinder or delay necessary action in coping with the public health emergency.”
A development permit is required for a business to use a portable fire pit, which must be temporary and cannot have a burning surface of more than 5 square feet. The business also must continue to comply with all public health regulations, including keeping crowding to a minimum.
At a work session Tuesday, Nov. 10, Breckenridge Town Council member Carol Saade expressed concerns that a fire pit would encourage congregation.
Council member Kelly Owens echoed those concerns, saying public health guidance for restaurants has revolved around people being seated in order to avoid close proximity with other groups.
“We’re going to have seven people around the fire pit shoulder to shoulder,” council member Dennis Kuhn said. “That’s not what we’re encouraging here.”
Holman said that during the permit process, staff would ensure that the fire pits aren’t placed in an area where they might attract a lot of people.
Mayor Eric Mamula said the fire pits are too small to fit more than a few people around them.
“I think if we encourage best practices so that the restaurants have a monitoring system to encourage good behavior, I’m not as worried about this,” council member Jeffrey Bergeron said. “And again, I think we’ve just got to make it easy to do business this winter for the restaurants.”
Holman noted that fire pits will not be allowed on public or town-owned property and will have to use private business space.
Council member Dick Carleton said not many restaurants have this kind of space and that he doesn’t see more than about six businesses taking advantage of the new order.
Breckenridge planner Chapin LaChance said the town had not yet issued any development permits for portable fire pits as of Monday, Nov. 16. But based on previous interest, he said he expects permit applications from Breckenridge Pour House and Continental Divide Winery.
Similar to how the town has issued tent permits, LaChance said there are rules about where fire pits can be located. The pits cannot be in driveways, walkways or snow storage areas, and the most preferred location is an existing deck or patio.
The order went into effect Friday, Nov. 13, and will stay in effect until it is rescinded by Holman or the Breckenridge mayor declares that the coronavirus public health emergency no longer exists.
Community Development Director Mark Truckey noted that patio heaters are allowed under the development code.
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