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Patio and retail spaces growing outdoors in Vernon

Downtown business applications expected to be available in March
Vernon council has approved creation of an outdoor commercial use permit to allow downtown businesses to expand their retail and patio spaces outdoors. (File photo)

Businesses no longer need to be confined indoors.

Vernon is creating a new outdoor commercial use permit to allow businesses in the downtown core to expand their retail and patio spaces outdoors.

The new permit is expected to be in place early next month and is replacing the existing sidewalk and boulevard area use permit.

What’s different is the new permit has an option for businesses to use one on-street parking space for business purposes, in addition to sidewalk and boulevard space.

The approach was tested as a pilot program between 2020 and 2022 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on local businesses. City transportation planner Danielle DeVries told council at its Feb. 13 meeting that 12 businesses took part in the pilot program.

Businesses in the primary and secondary business improvement areas (BIAs) will have an opportunity to bring their patios and sales areas outdoors through the new permit, which will have to be purchased annually.

Once the permit is in place, a business may use the length of their frontage on the sidewalk or boulevard year-round, weather permitting. Between March 1 and Oct. 31 of each year, they will also have an option to use one on-street parking space in front of their building.

Coun. Kari Gares brought up her concern about losing downtown parking spaces, especially with the planned cultural centre to be built in the so-called Vernon Block on 31st Avenue and 29th Street.

DeVries said a city study showed there is excess parking throughout downtown except on 30th Avenue.

“There is no limit as to how many of these outdoor users could be on one street face, but that could be explored,” said DeVries.

City director of community planning Kim Flick told council there is a downtown parking strategy in place, conducted several years ago, showing the Vernon Block was always a redevelopment block and that its interim use would be a parking lot, which it is now.

Council supported the proposed permit process and fees. Administration will now bring forward necessary bylaw amendments for council’s review and approval to formally implement the new permit.

Businesses will be able to apply for permits starting in March 2023. The guidelines and application form will be provided on the city website in the coming weeks. The new permit application fee will be $100 plus an annual rental fee to use city property of $30/m2 (square metre) on the sidewalk and boulevard and $360 for an on-street parking space.

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Roger Knox

About the Author: Roger Knox

I am a journalist with more than 30 years of experience in the industry. I started my career in radio and have spent the last 21 years working with Black Press Media.
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