Tempers flare up as Charlottetown limits outdoor patios

TC Media newsroom@journalpioneer.com
Published on May 9, 2014

Victoria Row

©Guardian photo by Nigel Armstrong

Tempers flared Thursday as Charlottetown City Council met to approve bylaws affecting restaurant patios and mobile food vendors.

Councillor Mitchell Tweel was agitated that the bylaw sets 24 as the total number of parking spaces in the downtown core that can be used by eating establishments for outdoor patios. The bylaw provides for three, with an option up to six additional parking spaces for push-cart or food-truck vendors.

Tweel was especially outraged over provisions that a lottery would decide who would get a permit if the requests exceed that 24-parking-space cap for patios.

"Some of these businesses, and I suggest to you that they are doing an excellent job of enhancing the downtown experience, some of these patios are upward of $15-$20,000," said Tweel after the meeting. "What happens if they don't win the lottery next year?"

Debate lasted close to an hour before the bylaw changes were approved, with Tweel and Coun. Danny Redmond opposed. Coun. Terry Bernard was absent.

Mounting pressure from the restaurant community to begin installing outdoor patios for this season pushed this bylaw amendment to Wednesday's special public meeeting.

Earlier this year there had been a request to expand the boundaries of the outdoor patio zone to include all areas south of and including Fitzroy Street. Since that required an amendment to the existing bylaw, it was decided to make other amendments to better control the growing demand for patios, and better control mobile food trucks and carts.

That has been accomplished through a new licensing program, enhanced set of definitions, and a new fee schedule, council heard.

The sole point of debate was around the cap on parking spaces the city will give up to dining alfresco.

Coun. David MacDonald presented the bylaw on behalf of his protective and emergency services  committee that oversees police and bylaw enforcement.

MacDonald said the issue of the cap and how to handle applications in excess of it was a difficult one for the committee.

The bylaw has to allow for control in a manner that can be enforced, he said.

Patio permits issued this year will be good for this summer and next, when the bylaw will be subject to a full review, said MacDonald.

Deputy Police Chief Richard Collins told council that based on last year's patio requests and new ones this year, the 24-parking-space allotment is expected to easily accommodate all demand, so the lottery provisions are highly unlikely.

Doesn't matter, said Tweel. He said the entire council had earlier rejected the idea of a cap and instead asked MacDonald's committee to consider a process of evaluation of every patio application on a case-by-case basis.

"Are we open for business, are we open to tourism or are we not,"  said Tweel.