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More downtown parking spaces to be turned over to sidewalk cafés

Council passed legislation to provide additional flexibility in regard to the use of on-street parking spaces to augment seating in the city’s downtown restaurants, like the new patio in front of Broken Hill on Baker Street. — The Nelson Daily photo

The city will be taking it to the streets after it amended its sidewalk café bylaw to help out the hard hit restaurant industry in Nelson.

Council passed legislation to provide additional flexibility in regards to the use of on-street parking spaces to augment seating in the city’s downtown restaurants.

Despite being allowed to re-open in the wake of the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants were not allowed to offer full capacity seating, having their floor space reduced by up to 50 per cent to retain social distancing.

The bylaw change was fast-tracked through council — under provincial order — with the city able to adopt bylaws on an expedited basis while the province was under a state of emergency.

“It just makes a lot of sense … It solves a lot of problems and creates a lot of opportunities,” said Coun. Britny Anderson.

In addition, the province has also provided changes to liquor licensing regulations in anticipation of the request to increase outdoor seating for restaurants, noted city senior planner Sebastien Arcand.

“Essentially, they will allow for restaurants to expand outdoor areas but will not increase occupancy,” he told council in his report.

The bylaw amendment provides additional flexibility in regards to the use of on-street parking spaces, Arcand explained.

“This minor change to the bylaw could allow businesses to utilize additional on-street parking spaces for the purpose of expanding their seating areas,” he said.

“Essentially, the bylaw ensures that the sidewalk cafés are well designed, allow for pedestrian movements and promote an active downtown.”

If the bylaw change was meant to be temporary it would have to come back to council, said Arcand.

Sidewalk by the numbers

In all, the city had 20 sidewalk cafés operating in its downtown area last year, occupying a total of 17 on-street parking spaces.

Earlier this year it was expected that the number of sidewalk cafés would rise to 22 in 2020, using 18 on-street parking stalls.

A city staff report noted that an additional 14 on-street parking spaces could be occupied, bringing the total loss of parking spaces in the downtown to 32.

Con of the walk

Additional on-street parking spaces occupied by sidewalk cafés will reduce parking meter revenues.

“However, given the current situation, it is deemed to be a reasonable short-term loss to ensure long term benefits by maintaining a healthy downtown,” said Arcand in his council report.

In review

The following three sections of the bylaw are being reviewed as part of the proposal:

  • 3.2.1 A sidewalk café located on the sidewalk or on on-street parking stalls, shall be limited to the linear frontage of its parent business.
  • 3.2.3 A sidewalk café shall not occupy more than one parallel on-street parking stall or three angle or perpendicular parking stalls. Combine usage of angled, perpendicular and parallel parking stalls is prohibited.
  • 3.2.7 Subject to the approval of the director, a sidewalk café may extend onto a neighbouring business frontage if written agreement is granted yearly from the adjacent business owner and provided the sidewalk café does not utilize additional on-street parking stalls.

The following changes are being proposed:

Replace section 3.2.7 with the following:

  • “3.2.7 Despite 3.2.1 and 3.2.3, under extraordinary circumstances, the director may approve a sidewalk café to temporarily extend onto a neighbouring business frontage if written agreement is granted yearly from the adjacent business owner.”

This change would allow the director of Development Services to authorize the expansion of sidewalk cafés on a case-by-case basis. It also includes a “good neighbour clause” by requiring that businesses consult with adjacent neighbours prior to any approvals being granted.

This proposal would provide greater flexibility for restaurant businesses to operate under the circumstances created by covid-19. Research is showing that being outdoors reduces the risk of virus transmission.

Therefore, municipalities across the country are finding creative ways to offer outdoor space to downtown businesses to continue to operate in a safe and efficient manner and ultimately help with their long-term viability.

— Source: City of Nelson