Jason Stockfish | firstname.lastname@example.org
Council discussed recommendations received from a taskforce regarding patio seating in Jasper during its Dec. 20 meeting.
The Commercial Use of Public Space Taskforce, consisting of six members – two town councillors, two members of the local Chamber of Commerce and two individuals from Tourism Jasper – was delegated with developing and recommending to council “appropriate standards for future commercial use of public space installations,” the agenda noted.
As authority over land-use planning and development in Jasper lies with the federal government, Parks Canada’s architectural motif guidelines sets forth expectations that businesses and the municipality are expected to comply with regarding patio seating.
The Municipality of Jasper is currently in talks with Parks Canada as it looks to gain authority over land-use planning and development.
However, these discussions are ongoing and no decision to hand over jurisdiction has yet been made.
After reviewing the task force’s recommendations, council made some minor modifications and directed administration to work with Parks Canada to implement those guidelines for the 2023 season and beyond.
The recommendations approved by council that administration included in its development application to Parks Canada closely aligns with federal guidelines, most notably those regarding the creation of clear pedestrian zones, materials permitted, the use of umbrellas but not tents and the removal of large concrete barriers known as Jersey barriers.
The recommendation regarding a clear pedestrian pathway stated that an area “equal to the width of the existing sidewalk shall be maintained at all times (and) when a walkaround or boardwalk is installed, the maximum width of the pedestrian zone is limited to the width of the parking lane/stall.”
Additionally, barriers for persons with limited mobility are not to be created in the process.
As for materials permitted to be used on the patios, the recommendation is for “wood, painted metal or other material approved by council sitting as committee of the whole, which may prohibit any material which in its opinion is considered unsightly, distasteful or unsuitable.”
The recommendations further state that “wood should be stained or brown pressure-treated (and) metal shall be painted black or consistent with approved building colours.”
“Approved building colours” refers to the colours of the adjacent building where the business is located.
Much debate has been had in the community and by council as to approved colours in accordance with Parks Canada’s guidelines that require muted and natural tones, as one could subjectively find almost any colour in Jasper’s natural surroundings.
The recommendations approved by council regarding umbrellas, however, looks to fall in line with Parks Canada’s expectations while leaving open the possibility of the committee of the whole permitting other colours it deems appropriate, if Parks Canada agrees to allow the municipality to make decisions on the matter in the future.
“(U)mbrellas shall be black in colour by default, or may be consistent with approved building colours or other colours approved by council…which may prohibit any material which in its opinion is considered unsightly, distasteful or unsuitable.”
In the recommendation, single-colour logos would be permitted on the umbrellas to assist businesses in differentiating themselves from their neighbours.
While council agreed with Parks Canada that Jersey barriers – put in place to protect pedestrians and patrons from oncoming traffic – are unsightly and should be removed, their recommendation to “provide flower planters for use on the end of (patio) installations facing the direction of oncoming traffic” would seemingly provide the required protection while beautifying the downtown.
Further to the point of safety, council approved the recommendation that “parking lane installations must have wood or metal barriers parallel to the driving lane in a way that prevents children from accessing the roadway.”
One member of the task force, Justin Melnyk, president of the Jasper Park Chamber of Commerce, spoke on the matter.
“I think the biggest thing for businesses going forward is they just want an idea of what the patios are going to consistently look like and be able to confidently make an investment in their patio,” Melnyk said.
If Parks Canada accepts the recommendations proposed, installations that were granted three-year approvals in 2022 will not be required to meet the new standards until after their existing approvals expire.
Those that meet the proposed criteria will be given a five-year term “to guarantee financial returns from their infrastructure capital investment,” the agenda noted.
“The task force was pretty collaborative,” Melnyk said.
“Everyone was just looking for a solution going forward that is going to be beneficial for business (while) also meeting the current requirements…including (Parks Canada’s architectural motif guidelines).”
Melnyk said he believes the municipality, Parks Canada and the business community have all shown that the patios have been successful, and feedback clearly shows that tourists enjoy them.
He added that outdoor patios are common in other parts of Alberta and throughout the world, and with a tourism-based economy sustaining the town, it is essential that Jasper is able to compete with other destinations and what they’re offering.
“(Visitors) like the ability to sit outside and enjoy the beauty of Jasper and Alberta (and) there’s only so few months to enjoy the summertime, so why not take as much advantage when you can when the weather is acceptable to be dining outside?”
Parks Canada will respond to administration’s recent development application sometime in early 2023.