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Business owners voice frustrations over patio guidelines

Restaurant owner Michael Cassio speaks to council at a special meeting on March 29. | J.Stockfish photo

Jason Stockfish, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter | advertising@fitzhugh.ca

A working group will be created to study the use of public space for commercial use as businesses express worry over the new patio guidelines.

A special meeting was held by council on March 29 to receive feedback from the community on how to move forward in applying for a special use permit from Parks Canada for commercial use sidewalks and parking lanes downtown.

A reoccurring point brought up during the meeting was the lack of coherence regarding Parks Canada’s Architectural Motif Guidelines for the town of Jasper that businesses are expected to comply with.

Those guidelines, which would come into effect after 2022, stipulate that no tents are allowed, only neutral-coloured umbrellas without logos are acceptable, businesses can only occupy the sidewalk with wooden boardwalks redirecting pedestrians through parking lanes and no jersey (concrete) barriers are permitted.

As was pointed out in the discussion, Jasper is the only municipality in Canada that is required to meet such standards, due to its specialized municipality status and Parks’ jurisdiction over land-use planning and development in the town.

Adding further uncertainty was that many are unconvinced the issue was even related to land-use planning and development or architecture.

“There are a number of different views that council is going to hear at the meeting (today) and Parks’ is but one of those views,” said CAO Bill Given during the meeting.

Given noted that based on past precedent, Parks Canada has had authority in this area.

“But council will have to take into account, when making their decision, what rules you want to put forward,” he said.

“I think this is a new process of council taking a more active role of determining a community standard and then proposing that community standard to Parks.”

To determine what that standard should look like, council heard from business owners who used sidewalks and parking lanes for commercial use during the past two summers.

Mike Cassio, the owner of Cassio’s Italian Restaurant, criticized how Parks would not allow tents going forward, only umbrellas.

“We live in the mountains. It’s not that nice some nights… We’ve lost a number of umbrellas down the street,” he said.

“I don’t know where Parks is coming from and who makes those decisions, but it’s time to get into the (21st) century.”

Cassio then spoke about having invested money in 2020 and 2021 for his patio, only to be later told he must create more aesthetically pleasing wooden infrastructure if he wishes to comply after 2022.

His jersey barriers cost $3,400 and replacing them with new railings would be $3,800, while the wooden walkway costs over $8,000.

“You’re going to put some out of the patio business completely because they just can’t afford it.”

Next to speak on the matter was Soto Korogonas, owner of Downstream Restaurant & Lounge.

“To me, the only thing that needs to be focused on is some clarity,” Korogonas said.

“We need to focus on what is working and what is not working and how to make this more inclusive for all businesses, regardless of their stature.”

Korogonas added that commercial use of public space had been beneficial to visitors, businesses and the town, but clear answers were required if the program was going to be sustainable.

“Businesses invest in property and staff, which needs to be accounted for, and if we’re going to pay adequate fees, businesses need to be able to use these spaces for a guaranteed amount of time and they need to be usable for visitors and staff alike.”

Restaurants and pubs are not the only businesses that use public space for commercial use, explained Candace Broughton, owner of Jasper Motorcycle Tours.

Broughton’s company does not operate on the sidewalk as per Parks’ guidelines.

As Jasper’s downtown alleys are full of potholes and often closed off at both ends by delivery trucks, and because motorcycles are not permitted on sidewalks, her company is left with parking stalls to use for the business.

“We need space the same way a restaurant does,” Broughton said.

Broughton added she was happy to work with the municipality and had no problem paying for the parking spaces her business occupies.

Pattie Pavlov, executive director of the Jasper Park Chamber of Commerce, agreed with the sentiments expressed by those who spoke before her.

“Everything that has been said is in step with the Chamber,” Pavlov said.

“All of the issues (arising from Parks’ guidelines) are still in limbo as far as the operators are concerned.”

Pavlov explained that the Chamber is looking for an opportunity to create a task force or standing committee that would discuss “all of those elements that remain very unclear to many businesses.”

“Our hope is that we can begin a very robust conversation dealing with these details,” she said.

“Business needs to proceed and businesses need to know the parameters by which they can proceed.”

Council agreed with much of what Pavlov and the business owners said and a motion to create a working group of interested parties passed unopposed.

Editor’s note: The story has been updated to reflect the correct costs of Cassio’s Italian Restaurant’s patio.

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