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Pondering the path to patios

Council discusses amendments to Bylaw No. 3860 2016 — in particular outdoor cooking and more parking stalls

Barry Coulter

The downtown seasonal patio bylaw continues to wend its through through City Hall, heading towards reality.

At Monday's regular City Council meeting, Mayor Pratt and Council discussed the pending bylaw (No. 3860 2016) allowing outdoor patios downtown.

City staff had returned amendments to the proposed bylaw, based on input from the Downtown Business Association and the public. Two amendments in particular prompted discussion amongst Council Monday — the issue of the business cooking on the patio, and the size of the theoretical patios themselves.


To Barbecue Or Not To Barbecue

Councillors took opposing sides; the argument in essence being to "start off with a bang," allowing cooking from the outset, and if there should be problems to amend the bylaw afterwards. Conversely, with cooking on the patios prohibited, if a business really wanted to that, they could come before the City and make their case then.

Coun. Tom Shypitka felt that if a "vendor or licensee" wanted to do some cooking on the patio, that would be fine, so long as proper health, safety and fire regulations were adhered to.

“We’ve heard some of the concerns about smells and smoke, but if we can allow a hotdog vendor a license to cook outside on our sidewalks … why can’t our licensees who are paying taxes do the same thing?”

Coun. Ron Popoff leaned in the same direction.

“Should there ever be someone who wants to do some cooking on the patio, its a business decision. We may want to consider … adding a nuisance or complaint clause into this bylaw. And if you want to start some cooking on your patio, get signed approval from the neighbour on either side of you. And leave it to the regulators.”

Coun. Norma Blissett took the opposing view, citing  nuisance and complaint concerns.

“There often are large volumes of smoke created — especially in a barbecue situation, and we need to be concerned about the neighbours. As far as just preparing food at the table, I don’t think that’s the issue, but it is the concern about a large cooking facility outside, and I think to start we should stick to not allowing the food preparation outside and then see how it goes. We can always amend the bylaw. We do it all the time.”

Coun. Shypitka responded that a policy was already in place, citing local hotdog vendors.

“Anyone can get a street license for downtown,” he said. “And now we’re telling our people who are paying taxes that they can’t do what some other person is doing on their own.

“This is a project we started to generate some enthusiasm and revitalization downtown, and it seems we’re boxing it in before we’ve even started.

“We amend bylaws all the time, so why not start this with a bang? If we restrict people too much, they might lose interest. If we see some problems, next year we can amend the bylaws, but I think the first couple of years are the most important.”

Mayor Lee Pratt said he didn’t think “it was really a fair comparison.

“As far as the hotdog vendor goes, he’s fully self-contained, people are not normally sitting on patios eating their hotdogs.

“We’re talking about a what-if scenario,” Mayor Pratt added. “I think somebody downtown in the restaurant business realistically … doesn’t want to become the barbecuer on the patio.

“I think we’re fine with saying no cooking on the patios. If someone really wants to do it, let them come and ask for it, and we could possibly give them a temporary trial license. But I don’t think we want to open up the avenue for a whole lot of complaints.”

“We don’t know if there will be a lot of complaints, but we’re already shutting it down because we think the what-if scenario’s going to happen,” Coun. Shypitka responded. “We can’t amend bylaws over something that’s never happened. So I say start off big, do it right, have the proper regulations in place, and we’ll address the what-if’s if they happen.”

Mayor Pratt said that if someone was adamant about cooking “they could come to us and we could talk about their plan. But if we say [yes to] cooking on patios, we’re opening it up to a lot. And then we’re going to have to deal with it, and if it’s in the bylaw then it’s a bigger issue.”

Coun. Blissett said that any restaurant that is looking to expand onto a patio already has a kitchen, so they can cook all they need to in their own kitchen. “Let’s put this bylaw in place and see how it works. We’re not going to create a problem by not having barbecues. We could be creating a problem by allowing it.”

After further to and fro, the issue was put to a vote, and the majority of Council voted not to allow cooking (Councillors Popoff and Shypitka voted to allow it).


Out of 777 Downtown Parking Spots …

Another tricky issue is the number of parking spaces to be taken up by an outdoor patio. The bylaw originally allows for one parallel parking space or up to three angled parking stalls. The Downtown Business Association suggested an increase to five angled or three parallel spots.

Coun. Blissett suggested a compromise — two parallel or four angled.

Ron Popoff didn’t see it as an issue.

“There are 777 parking spots in in greater downtown, as opposed to losing a dozen or so in the interests of creating downtown vibrancy. To me it’s a non-issue. Three and five gives them the flexibility to do what they want.”

Mayor Pratt responded that the dozen or so stalls in question out of the 777 were among the most highly used downtown.

“How many parking stalls to we lose to create downtown vibrancy?” Popoff asked. “What’s the sweet spot?”

Coun. Shypitka argued again that “we don’t want to baby step this. We want to come in full-impact.”

Maryse Leroux, Policy Analyst for the City of Cranbrook, told Council that the cost of installing a patio at the bylaw size, including railings, furniture and deck, would be about a $6,000 investment.