The patio at Sunset Grill in downtown NIagara-on-the-Lake.File Photo

Niagara-on-the-Lake councillors have a lot of questions about how the town’s patio program will operate in the future.  

A report before them Tuesday had staff recommending that council support outdoor patios, which were allowed beginning in 2020 to help restaurants cope during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

At the time, the town created general guidelines for design and requirements for a temporary patio program, intending to do a more detailed review later.

Council has extended the program three times since 2020, but a recommendation from staff to create a permanent policy was met with hesitation from elected officials during Tuesday’s council meeting.  

Kirsten McCauley, the town’s director of community and development services, said a permanent seasonal program, running eight months a year, would continue annually and not have to be extended each year by a vote of council. Changes could be made along the way, she explained. 

When council voted, it was decided that council will support the program in principle, and that staff return with a report based on feedback from Tuesday’s discussion. Council did not support a motion that described the program as permanent.  

Some of that input was related to the impact on parking. Coun. Maria Mavridis, also the owner of two restaurants on Queen Street, said a few parking spaces are lost with the operation of the current program.

She said she is unsure of how many spaces would be affected with a permanent allowance for patios.

“Parking has been an issue since the ’70s, and it remains an issue,” she said.  

Since 2020, the town has approved and issued temporary patio permits for 37 businesses. Permits have been issued for 22 businesses in Old Town, five in Virgil and three in St. Davids.  

Seven permits have been issued for businesses outside the urban area boundary. Eight of those in Old Town are for businesses located along Queen Street, staff said.  

Coun. Wendy Cheropita said businesses have expressed concerns about the application and paperwork required before each season, hoping they can get something that’s “easy to digest,” she said.  

Coun. Nick Ruller said he couldn’t support the motion because there are “a lot of specifics that need to be worked through.”  

The temporary program allows patios to occupy municipal parking stalls. Patios have previously occupied one to two parking spaces each, with to date a maximum of four parking spaces along Queen Street currently being occupied by temporary patios, staff said.  

If applying hourly parking rates, for 10 hours per day along Queen Street, the town loses approximately $12,250 in parking revenue per space per season, which is April 1 to October 31.  

If applying hourly parking rates, for 10 hours per day, outside of Queen Street, the town loses approximately $10,120 in parking revenue per space per season. 

Should council wish to apply a cash-in-lieu of parking rate to temporary patios occupying municipal parking stalls, this would cost $65,988 per space, said staff.

By Kris Dube, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Nov 22, 2023 at 07:32

This item reprinted with permission from   Niagara-on-the-lake Local   Niagara-on-the-lake, Ontario

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