|Construction crews work on installing new underground upgrades to Bernard Avenue. Once construction is finished, Bernard Avenue could be full of patios year-round with the new, wider 6.9-metre sidewalks.|
City hall bureaucrats, who plan to open the new, wider sidewalks to more commercial enterprises, are also looking at the potential revenue from business owners.
In fact, property owners are already contributing significantly - $1.25 million or
25 per cent of the $5 million in streetscaping costs, noted councillors during a feisty debate at Monday's meeting.
The current patio seating program only allows one patio per block by removing on-street angle parking beside a four-lane roadway. The new three-lane Bernard has parallel parking and a 6.9-metre "pedestrian-friendly" sidewalk so there could be seven or eight patios per block.
Bureaucrats have divided the sidewalk into three zones: a three-metre "frontage" zone adjacent to the building, a two-metre "pedestrian" zone in the middle and a 1.9-metre street "furnishings" zone adjacent to the parking.
"The intent of the frontage zone is to provide an opportunity for the businesses on Bernard Avenue to expand their businesses out onto the sidewalk to enliven the street," said Ron Forbes, the city's manager of property management.
City staff developed guidelines "to encourage business owners to develop quality frontages that complement the street design, animate the street and accommodate the flow of pedestrians," he said.
An independent appraiser was retained to advise the city on "fair value fees" for the use of the space. Forbes recommended no fee for 2013, 50 per cent off for 2014 and full fees starting in 2015 for those in the 200-300 blocks and 560-600 blocks, no fees in 2013 and 2014 for the 400-550 blocks (under construction), then the 50 per cent and 100 per cent in 2015 and 2016. Fees would be higher on a sliding scale for those closer to the lake. Rates would be reappraised after the third year.
After considerable debate, councillors decided to approve the policy, approve two free years, 50 per cent and 100 per cent fees in the third and fourth years, respectively, and encourage further discussions with the Downtown Kelowna Association.
Councillors expressed a desire for businesses to invest in their patios and for that to be reflected in a sliding rental rate, but they admitted how to implement that was a challenge.
Coun. Andre Blanleil spoke to one businessperson who wasn't aware the city was changing its sidewalk patio policy. Blanleil pointed to the plethora of sidewalk patios in Quebec City and commented: "(Bernard) could be a spectacular area of the city."
He heard city staff wanted to even dictate colours in the guidelines, later withdrawn. Forbes reassured him the guidelines were aimed at preventing chain-link fencing and billboards, for example. Retractable awnings and gas-fired heaters like those in Europe would be allowed for inclement weather.
"Perimeter structures can be elegant," agreed Coun. Robert Hobson, who suggested a portfolio of quality patios in other cities could be circulated to downtown businesses as examples.
"I'd like to see something funky, inviting," commented Coun. Mohini Singh.
Responding to her questions, Forbes said there would be a mailout and e-mails to all businesses since the earlier they can get started on extending liquor licenses, for example, the better.
Mayor Walter Gray reminded councillors that downtown property owners are already contributing "big dollars" to the revitalization and the city shouldn't treat patio rentals as a money grab, but on a cost-recovery basis for staff time.
Coun. Gail Given disagreed with setting rates so far into the future and would rather review those in two years, commenting: "I don't want to mess with the monkey too much."
"It doesn't have to be decided by midnight tonight. We could put it back on the agenda in two or three weeks. It's better to do it right," agreed the mayor.