Jasper Municipal Council hears feedback on pilot sidewalk seating project

·3 min read

A majority of businesses, services and non-profit organizations want the sidewalk seat pilot program to continue and are waiting for Jasper Municipal Council to make a decision.

That's the consensus so far, said Pattie Pavlov, general manager of Jasper Park Chamber of Commerce, at council's regular meeting on Nov. 17.

She said the Chamber contacted the same businesses they talked to in the spring and have gained feedback from 87 of 113.

Of those, Pavlov said, 46 are in favour of continuing the project "100 per cent", 38 are in favour with a few tweaks being implemented and three are "solid, no, not in favour".

Comments from businesses included the program "meant the difference between survival and closure" and “added to the Jasper vibe".

On the 'no' side were comments that the program wasn't good for people with mobility problems, that seniors struggled to walk through pedestrian traffic and that if the plan was to prevent COVID transmission, "it failed miserably".

Another comment was that sidewalk seating needs to have eye appeal, that many patios in the summer "were circus-like". There were calls for standardized motifs to be used, with allowances for branding of individual businesses.

Pavlov noted there were calls for council to make a decision as quickly as they can, because of the time it takes to do the set-ups. As well, final approval has to be assessed by Parks Canada's Planning and Development Advisory Committee (PDAC).

Parks Canada confirmed that the 2020 sidewalk seating pilot program was approved because it was a COVID-reduction matter, and it was last-minute. With the request for a program in 2021, there's more time to plan so the program has to go through the regulatory process.

Brett Ireland, co-founder of Bearhill Brewing, and the Jasper Brewing Company, said, "The broader community needs to benefit from this change.”

He suggested a fee structure be explored for business use of street side parking spaces. He noted jobs were created due to mandated capacity restrictions and neighbouring retailers benefitted from the program. Ireland also talked about "pinch points", when a pedestrian saw a group of people walking toward them and went into traffic to get away, not befitting of an UNESCO world heritage site.

About 2021, he said, "We're expecting an non-normal season, hopefully a little better than last summer."

Councillor Scott Wilson said the program needs to be approved, with details and changes to be worked on as it goes ahead, instead of attempting to put changes in place first.

Coun. Jenna McGrath said a decision needs to be made soon, in light of the PDAC assessment that needs to be done before the program goes ahead.

Over the summer, Administration kept track of complaints and concerns about the program received by the operations department, bylaw services and Alberta Health Services.

The complaints echoed comments made by people Pavlov talked with, about the aesthetics and look of the downtown core this year, as well as the numerous pinch points, pedestrians being uncertain when to pass through the sidewalks during busy times, smoking patrons loitering in the bypass and lining up in the bypass. There were concerns expressed about health and safety issues as servers waded through pedestrian traffic with food and beverages to get to the patio. Council will discuss the matter at upcoming meetings.

Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh