In a rare action looking beyond the current COVID-19 crisis, White Rock council has endorsed a recommendation focusing on future restaurant business on Marine Drive – in particular the potential for weather-protected all-season patios on the waterfront.
At the April 27 meeting, council voted to share a report with current sidewalk patio-licensed businesses on what future requirements will be for such enclosed patios on city property.
Planning and development services director Carl Isaak explained to council that the report is in response to a recommendation from the Marine Drive task force to examine the issue, due to interest in the idea shown by businesses and expressed by the White Rock BIA.
“When it’s on city property there are a number of legal and structural and other considerations that are involved,” Isaak said, noting the idea of enclosed patios is “about a more inviting atmosphere in the off-season…extending the amount of time we can have attractive waterfront dining for customers who want to enjoy the views and be slightly outdoors.”
No further action can be taken while current health restrictions are in place, however the city will be looking for feedback from businesses. Were a proposal to come forward that meets city criteria, staff could get to work preparing necessary bylaw amendments once restrictions are lifted, Isaak said.
Among main requirements specified by the city are that structures are not permanent, that they could be removed within 24 hours and would allow full access to existing infrastructure such as manholes, shut-off valves and pipes.
They would also have to allow pedestrians room to move around them safely , and meet safety requirements, including proper sightlines at intersections, structural load and fire code regulations and use fire-resistant materials in curtains, panels and awnings.
The report also stipulates that enclosed patios should not permit businesses to exceed provincially-approved occupancy loads, and should be able to be open to the elements during warmer weather.
In response to a question from Coun. David Chesney on whether the city would call for any “uniformity of design,” Isaak said staff haven’t put together “aesthetic criteria,” noting that existing patios tend to reflect individual themes and cuisines.
“I think we would have the opportunity to review a proposal in the context of adjacent businesses, in the context of how it appears on our streetscape – there wouldn’t be an automatic ‘if it meets the criteria, you’re in’,” Isaak said.
Following further questions from Coun. Christopher Trevelyan, Isaak said the businesses involved would be on the stretch West Beach waterfront between The Boathouse and Uli’s, where most businesses are situated “right on the property line.”
He added that most costs to the city from allowing enclosed patios would come from inspections by various departments.
Trevelyan also questioned a proposed increase in the initial fee for an enclosed structure from $172 to $344 – which Isaak said would not fully recover costs of inspections – plus a proposed doubling of the annual fee rate based on square footage, and an increase in the bond against subsequent removal of the structure from $1,500 to $5,000.
Isaak said the latter would be necessary because if a structure is on city property for an extended period of years “there is a fair amount of work involved” to remove it – all of which is done by the city rather than the business – including cleaning, maintenance and re-levelling of pavers.
“I think some of these conditions may be a little bit unfriendly,” Trevelyan said. “I’d like to see this improved a little bit on the cost points there.”