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New taskforce to provide input on sidewalk seating

Council approve the terms of reference for a Commercial Use of Public Space Taskforce, which will deal with sidewalk seating. | P.Shokeir photo

Peter Shokeir | editor@fitzhugh.ca

The Municipality of Jasper is putting together a taskforce that will develop and recommend to council an appropriate standard for sidewalk seating.

During its June 21 meeting, council adopted the terms of reference for this taskforce.

CAO Bill Given explained to council how sidewalk seating was allowed to extend into the parking lane in 2020 as a temporary measure to accommodate businesses during the pandemic.

By the end of last year, 26 food and beverage establishments participated in the program.

“We’re moving into a phase where there’s a desire, I think, from the community to have a longer lasting set of regulations that would provide certainty for businesses so they invest in these types of installations,” Given said.

“And as council will be well aware, there’s bits of debate about what that should look like against the challenges around regulatory authority.”

Parks Canada, which has land-use authority in Jasper, recently attempted to ban tents for sidewalk seating this season but reversed the decision following outcry from restaurateurs.

The voting members of the new taskforce will be two members of council, two members of the Jasper Park Chamber of Commerce and two members of Tourism Jasper.

Given said administration will reach out to the identified parties to establish this taskforce.

“We had some discussion last week about the challenge of doing that during the summer season, where obviously folks in the private sector are very busy during peak (tourism),” he said.

“But there’s also that desire from all parties to have some longer-term solution recommendations in advance of the next big season, and so it kind of does necessitate starting development soon.”

Municipal administration will support the taskforce, and Parks Canada will be invited to provide administrative input and perspective.

The taskforce will develop standards for the future commercial use of public space installations, which includes sidewalk seating, by undertaking a review of the regulatory and legislative framework and researching best practices from other municipalities.

It will also consider the operational needs of businesses, the expectations and needs of residents and visitors and the positioning of Jasper as an international destination within a unique national park environment.

The taskforce will give its recommendations to council.

From there, council will need to discuss the recommendations with Parks Canada, which holds final approval on land-use matters.

Other highlights

Council acknowledged 687 units as reflective of a reasonable estimate of Jasper’s 2021 housing gap and received the JCHC Governance Review for information.

Administration is currently working to identify resources required to produce a strategy to address the housing gap.

The strategy recommended by the consultant, Colliers, was a public-lead initiative with private sector participation.

In addition, administration is reviewing the corporate structures that would enable the Jasper Community Housing Corporation (JCHC) to assume debt independent of the municipality while also being able to provide some manner of equity in return for capital contributions.

Council also approved an updated project budget of $190,000 for the replacement of the boiler and domestic hot water system replacement at the Emergency Services Building.

This replacement will be funded from the Protective Services Restricted Reserves.

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