Sunday, May 12, 2013

Patio Policy Helps Enliven Downtowns

The first patio of the season emerged last week in Downtown Fonthill at Gelato Village. I understand that at least two more – a patio at Café on Main and a table and a couple of chairs at Presentations – are in the works.

Last summer Council allowed Café on Main to build a patio on Pelham Street. While approved without a formal policy, Council agreed to the request as a way to help the Town develop a policy and to gauge the public reaction.

Many loved the patio and saw it as a progressive move to help encourage lively streets and to extend activities in the Downtown. Some expressed concern that the patio forced them to walk around it and closer to the busy street. Others lamented the loss of the parking spot and found it inconvenient or, in the case of people with disabilities, difficult to walk a little bit further.

Council considered the feedback and approved a patio policy that addressed these concerns.

The policy reads: “The Town of Pelham… recognizes that streets play an important role in the urban environment. To encourage lively streetscapes, extended activities including the use of sidewalks may be appropriate. One way to achieve this is through the creation of opportunities for places to sit and gather, such as outdoor cafés and patios. A sidewalk café affords people the opportunity to dine al fresco (in open air) while enjoying the street’s vitality and when designed appropriately can make a significant contribution to the downtown community.”

To operate a sidewalk café, a business must enter into an agreement with the Town and can only operate it between May 1st and October 31st.

Because streets and sidewalks are public property, business applying for an agreement must take into consideration elements such as benches, light standards, planters and waste receptacles. Further, sidewalk cafés must not interfere with the use of the public right-of-way or pose a threat to public safety; that’s why, for example, Gelato Village used bollards to delineate a 1.5 metre pathway for pedestrians.

Finally, sidewalk patios must maintain barrier-free access for persons with disabilities and comply with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

If you are interested in reviewing the policy and design principles, please click here or ask for a copy at Town Hall.

I hope that the fulfillment of this new patio policy will ensure public safety while encouraging the establishment of successful cafés in Pelham’s Downtowns.