Cranbrook city council has adopted emergency changes to its seasonal patio bylaw in response to the provincial government’s three-week ‘circuit breaker’ restrictions that ban indoor dining, among other public health orders.
The ‘circuit breaker’ restrictions ban indoor dining, but permit outside dine-in service for restaurants that have patios, or space for patios, where people can be seated in a physically distanced manner.
The new bylaw changes passed three readings a week ago during a special council meeting, where CAO Mark Fercho pitched some ideas based off his experience heading up the administrative team for Jasper, where he served for six years.
“We recognize the importance of having successful businesses in our community. I am pleased that staff, with the unanimous support of Council, have developed this additional support to help local restaurants through the trying times and restrictions they are forced to deal with because of COVID-19,” said Mayor Lee Pratt. “I strongly encourage everyone to get out and support all of our local businesses as we navigate through this pandemic.”
Some of those changes to the downtown seasonal patio bylaw include temporarily waiving fees (a security deposit is still required), not requiring approval in front of a vacant building and that patios must not extend beyond frontage associated with a restaurant without permission of adjacent business or property owner.
Other changes include allowing conversion of private parking lots into patio spaces, which will require city approval to suspend the requirements of parking lot spaces needed for normal restaurant operations. Those businesses converting private parking spaces still need to apply to the city for building permit required items and provide a basic layout plan for fire and emergency services.
Fercho, who comes to Cranbrook after managing the administrative team for Jasper, earlier told council about some successful policies the mountain tourist town put in place, such as using movable concrete barriers alongside streets, in between sidewalk spaces, to create an outdoor patio space.
City administration also has the authority to temporarily reduce the speed limit along Baker St. and possibly other downtown avenues to 30 km/h for public safety reasons as outdoor patios come online over the spring and summer months.
While there has been some social media chatter about closing down some downtown streets to vehicle traffic at certain times or on certain days, Councillor Mike Peabody was hesitant.
Peabody said there’s “mixed feelings” from downtown business owners about the possibility of closing Baker St., or parts of Baker St., to vehicles in order to increase pedestrian traffic, as the layout of the downtown core isn’t necessarily suited for it.
“We just passed a bylaw to allow parking barricades on the street, creating a safe and affordable patio for restaurant owners,” said Peabody. “This worked well in Jasper. I feel closing Baker [St.] would be contentious; this should hopefully keep everybody happy.”
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