Downtown businesses disappointed by fee increase for patios

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What appeared to be a last minute change to the fees charged to downtown businesses for installing in-street patios has caused a bit of consternation for local businesses in Canmore.

In May, Mayor John Borrowman made a motion to increase the fee for applying for an annual permit to have an in-street patio while the overall policy was considered by council.

The mayor, at the time, said he did not feel an increase from $100 to $1,000 for the annual permit application would be onerous for local downtown businesses to pay, as having a patio increases seating and thus profits.

“It seems to me there is a strong incentive for creating these patios regardless, “ he said at the time. “That incentive is what we call in the business world, profit.”

However, the last-minute change to the fee was a cause of frustration for local businesses in the downtown core according to the Downtown Business Association executive director Beth VanderVoort.

VanderVoort was in front of council last week to request elected officials reconsider the fee change. She said many businesses in the downtown have concerns that the fee was increased without any consultation with businesses about how it would affect them.

“This was seemingly increased to an arbitrary number and a much higher fee than suggested by administration,” she said. “It did not allow us to respond to the change in reasonable time.”

The in-street patio policy was already delayed in being presented to council for approval, VanderVoort said, and those businesses who have chosen to invest upwards of $10,000 into the infrastructure required were caught in a situation where they had not budgeted for a $1,000 fee but were ready to proceed with installing the patio space they prepared.

So not only was installation of the patios delayed because businesses had to wait for council to approve the policy, but once it was approved it was combined with a 100 per cent fee increase said VanderVoort. She said businesses were affected and while some have chosen to move forward and pay the fee, the Downtown Business Association would like council to reconsider the motion and perhaps phase in a fee increase over several years.

“For those who took part in the three-year trial, there was a considerable outlay of capital budget to build, store and install the patios and budgeting for this year included the recommended administration permitting fees,” the association’s board of directors wrote in a letter to council. “Though the $1,000, in fact may be an appropriate amount to charge for an in-street patio or boardwalk, the (Downtown Business Association) would like to encourage re-consideration by the mayor and council to step the increase over a period of three years as a way to assist those doing in-street patios and boardwalk budgets.”

Council will consider the request at its June 21 meeting.

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Rocky Mountain Outlook