The Town of Sidney is looking for comments and feedback on options for weather protection of outdoor seating areas for restaurants and cafes as well as line up areas for businesses, given the ongoing pandemic and its impact on local businesses. Some key considerations are:
Protecting outdoor seating areas and lineups from wind and weather would require an awning or a structure with a roof and side walls. Sidney’s current Sidewalk Café Regulations Bylaw No. 2177 allows tables and chairs for outdoor seating of customers on specified areas of public sidewalks but no shelters or forms of weather protection are permitted. The bylaw was amended earlier this year to allow roadside café seating (again, tables and chairs but no weather protection) in on-street parking spaces, with conditions. Allowing shelters in sidewalk cafés or roadside cafes would require an amendment to this bylaw.
Many commercial buildings have limited space on private property at the front lot line which means that these awnings or structures would extend out onto public property if they are to be constructed at the front of the business. This would require that the property owner enters into an Encroachment Agreement with the Town for occupying the public space with an awning or structure.
Either an awning or structure would have to meet Building Code and Fire Code requirements and have the design approved by an Engineer. A Building Permit would be required to install either of these options.
Shelter structures could be permitted on public property through a Right of Way Permit instead of a Sidewalk Café or Roadside Café permit. The cost of a Right of Way Permit is $200/month plus $15/day for each parking space that is occupied either by a structure or a rerouted pedestrian sidewalk area. A Building Permit would still be required, and the structure would still have to meet BC Building and Fire Codes and be approved by an Engineer. Right of Way permits allowing shelter structures for outdoor seating would only be considered during the pandemic, and these would be temporary in nature with a maximum time frame stated in the permit.
Weather protection structures near a street corner or on public property, whether on a sidewalk or in an on-street parking space, can’t block sightlines for traffic. If located on a sidewalk, the pedestrian walkway may need to extend out into the on-street parking area, which may result in additional cost to the business owner. It would also result in a loss of on-street public parking. If a business is requesting to convert an entire block of on-street parking, this request must be approved by Council.
Installing an awning or shelter comes at a cost to the business owner or property owner and would likely result in an expectation that it can stay in place for a period of time to make the investment worthwhile. At this time, the Town cannot guarantee the future use of these shelters.
Given the considerable cost of constructing a sheltered area on the business frontage, if approved by permit, the Sidewalk Café Bylaw would give timelines for the length of time a structure could remain in place. The Town would retain the ability to remove a shelter at any time in case of emergency (i.e. infrastructure repair), and could not give an absolute guarantee on a timeframe.
Shelters must not cause damage to the Town’s infrastructure. The Town would require a security deposit for the cost of removing the shelter and repairing any potential damage prior to installation. This would be refunded to the business if the shelter is removed with no damage to municipal infrastructure. Shelters must not interfere with access to Town or third party infrastructure.
Due to provincial legislation that prevents a local government from providing assistance to a business, the Town is not able to cover the cost of weather protection for an individual business’s outdoor seating or lineup area.
The Town is not able to provide a list of recommended products or businesses to provide or install awnings or weather protection shelters.
Commercial areas in Sidney are designated Development Permit Areas where the form and character of new development is controlled by design guidelines. This is the case for Downtown Commercial, Industrial, Harbour Road Marine, and Neighbourhood Commercial areas. Weather protection structures or awnings being added onto buildings should be designed to complement the existing architecture and may be subject to Development Permit approval, depending on their location.
Options to consider:
Amend the Sidewalk Café Bylaw to allow shelter structures for sidewalk cafes and roadside cafes, subject to conditions (not blocking sightlines, meet Building Code and Fire Code, obtain a Building Permit, etc.).
Allow shelter structures on public property temporarily under the Right of Way Permit process, subject to conditions (same as option 1).
Waive Development Permit and Building Permit application fees for constructing an awning or sheltered area on the business frontage.
Allow sidewalk café areas to occupy the entire sidewalk area in front of a business premises with protected outdoor seating, approved by permit, and shift the pedestrian sidewalk space out into adjacent on-street parking areas. The cost of installing the new temporary protected pedestrian sidewalk would be covered by the business owner or property owner. As per the Sidewalk Café Bylaw, a 3 meter wide unobstructed accessible walkway must be maintained.
Would any of these options be helpful to you? Do you have other suggestions?
The Town has requested comments and feedback from commercial business owners and property owners. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org by Thursday November 12. Town staff will review all comments and options, and will be reporting back to Council on this topic in late November.