Committee voted in favour of continuing on-street patio program, while reducing speed limit on Hurontario to 30 km/h and reducing fees for businesses who use the program; decision will go before council on March 20
Following community consultation, Collingwood council gave the initial OK on Monday to proceed with continuing a temporary bylaw to allow on-street patios and retail spaces, while reducing the speed limit on Hurontario St. to 30 km/hour.
As part of the new bylaw, council also asked for some fee relief for businesses that use the program, as well as some options for better-looking barriers to protect patio patrons from traffic.
During the March 6 corporate and community services standing committee meeting, councillors were presented with multiple options for a new bylaw concerning downtown boulevard patios and retail displays.
Currently, downtown merchants pay annual fees of $80 for a sidewalk retail display, $150 for a sidewalk patio licence, and $3.50 per square metre per month to lease right of ways (sidewalks) for the patio.
As part of the new bylaw, an annual licence fee of $350 for street patios would be added, plus a lease rate of $5.50 per square metre per month.
If the street patios use a parking space, staff were proposing an $8 per day fee, to counteract the loss of parking revenue.
Cassie McKell, co-owner of Low Down Bar, used the temporary program during the pandemic and spoke to councillors Monday about the importance of it continuing. She expressed concern about the parking fee structure, and asked for relief for businesses on that front.
Councillors agreed, and added to the motion they wanted to eliminate the parking space fees.
“The cost is too much for some businesses,” said Coun. Brandon Houston.
While patios and retail merchandise have been permitted on the sidewalks of Downtown Collingwood for more than 10 years, during the pandemic the town expanded patio rules for downtown businesses to allow more seating and retail options outdoors to reduce the transmission of COVID-19.
This was permitted through a temporary encroachment bylaw which first went into effect on June 15, 2020 and expired Jan. 1, 2023. Under the bylaw, patios were permitted to expand beyond their building frontage upon receiving consent from the neighbouring business and the ability to use on-street parking spaces to accommodate physical distance separation requirements for additional seating.
Merchandise displays were permitted during hours of operation, including tents along the curbside which were previously restricted to weekends and holidays.
In 2022, there were 13 Collingwood businesses that has sidewalk patios, eight had on-street patios, one had a winter patio and two had curbside retail displays.
A public survey on the subject was open from Feb. 6 to 24 on the Engage Collingwood page. According to the staff report, 1,983 surveys were completed and two email responses were sent to the town on the subject. Survey results showed most respondents believed the patios help enhance the experience in the downtown and supported the continuation of not only patios on sidewalks but on-street patios on Hurontario Street and the side streets within the downtown.
About 70 per cent of the participants responded that they never had an issue finding parking spaces downtown, with 24 per cent noting that they sometimes had an issue finding parking while the patios were in place.
Coun. Deb Doherty referred to the Ontario Traffic Council-recommended options for barriers as “butt-ugly,” and asked if staff could investigate the possibility of more aesthetically pleasing barrier options before the matter comes to council for ratification later this month, an idea also supported by Deputy Mayor Tim Fryer.
Coun. Chris Potts also asked for information on the cost of signage for the Hurontario St. speed change and a public information campaign to alert residents to the change be included when the matter comes before council later this month.
At the end of discussion, the committee voted 6-2 in favour of proceeding with allowing on-street patio and retail spaces with a 30 km/hour speed limit reduction on Hurontario St., with Potts and Fryer opposed. Coun. Rob Ring was absent.
The decision will next come before council on March 20 with more information from staff about the costs of proceeding. If a new bylaw is approved by council, the town would be looking to implement the new bylaw in April, ahead of this summer’s patio season.
In 2024, there is a downtown “visioning” exercise planned that could bring more changes, so the proposed bylaws would be temporary.