Banff cracking down on commercial sidewalk encroachment

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The Town of Banff is cracking down on businesses that have pushed their outdoor restaurant or café seating further onto the public sidewalk than permitted.

Under a 2010 sidewalk seating policy, there must be a minimum of two to 2.5 metres of unobstructed sidewalk in areas with lots of pedestrians – but several businesses have pushed their outdoor patios further onto the sidewalk.

Council has directed administration to enforce a two-metre pedestrian zone on both Caribou and Wolf streets where pedestrian numbers are increasing as more tourists come to town.

Warnings only have been given in the past, but now there will be two written warnings before a permit is revoked for the remainder of the year with no refund of fees. The business would be allowed to re-apply the following year.

Mayor Karen Sorensen voiced support for this action.

“There’s no doubt this will mean the establishments showing encroachment will have to reduce their table count or their seat count,” she said. “I’m okay with that based on the pedestrian traffic we’re seeing.”

According to administration, St. James’ Gate and Earls on Wolf Street are not in compliance with the policy, leaving only about 1.8 metres for people to walk by on the sidewalk. Some sidewalk patios on Caribou Street – Block Kitchen & Bar, Coyotes, Tooloulou’s and Eddie Burger & Bar – are taking up more space on the sidewalk than allowed.

“That 20 centimetres or so makes a big difference given increasing pedestrian volumes,” said Jennifer Laforest, a planner with the Town of Banff.

The planning and development department’s recommendation was to deal with encroachment into the pedestrian zone on Caribou Street only, where there have been ongoing complaints. There have been no complaints about Wolf Street outdoor patios.

But Councillor Corrie DiManno wanted to see Wolf Street businesses told to come into compliance, too.

“What I’m imaging is that Caribou and Wolf here are like brother and sister and we’re giving the sister some leniency and the brother not,” said DiManno. “An encroachment is an encroachment. It’s still going into the public space.”

Sorensen, who initially wanted to deal with Caribou Street only based on the fact there are complaints and traffic counters show there was an eight per cent increase in pedestrians from 2016 to 2017, ended up supporting DiManno.

“I guess anecdotally and personally, I walk Wolf Street every single day and in the summer – whether it’s a wheelchair or burley or mom holdings two kids’ hands – it’s difficult,” she said.

Capital dollars are earmarked for 2020 for upgrades and improvements to both Wolf and Caribou streets.

“When the street is being redesigned in a few years, we may be able to make the situation there a bit better for those establishments,” said Sorensen.

Coun. Grant Canning declared a conflict of interest as he owns a coffee shop business on Bear Street with sidewalk seating. Coun. Peter Poole, who is a business owner with sidewalk seating and a landlord on Bear Street, also declared a conflict.

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