By Maria Toews 
BELLEVILLE – The municipality of Trent Hills  is creating a policy for businesses to expand their store space outside when the warm weather comes.
The temporary outdoor patio policy was brought forward in the April 6 staff report by Kira Mees, Trent Hill’s community development officer, during the council meeting.
“We worked with a few places last year that wanted to try using the sidewalk to expand their surface area and then again, because COVID continues, we already had a couple of inquiries about the possibility of doing it for this season. So all of the involved departments met and we brought forward this draft policy,” says Mees.
This policy will allow businesses to expand their store’s space to the sidewalks, parking lots and municipal land surrounding their store.
“I think it’s really important that we do everything we can to support businesses and recognize that with the restrictions changing all the time it’s been really challenging,” said Mees.
Mayor Bob Crate said he feels for business owners.
“It must be a very sinking feeling to get up in the morning and know that you have a big investment in your business and that you have to sit and do nothing because of this pandemic,” he said.
“If we can assist our business community then I’m all for it.”
Due to the current stay-at-home order and an unpredictable future, exactly when this policy will be implemented is not set in stone. However, Mees hopes the council will approve the policy at the next council meeting on April 20 and operations can start on May 1.
“We did take some time for consultation with the businesses after I brought the draft policy forward and we did get a lot of comments and those comments did help us make some clarifications and some minor edits,” said Mees.
One of these edits was to change the title of the policy. Instead of being called the temporary outdoor patio policy it has now been renamed sidewalk use. This is because it will not only apply to restaurant patios but also retail stores and any other business that wants to take advantage of this proposal.
Furthermore, no permit fees for using the sidewalks are being enforced this year.
“This year will be a pilot again because we’re not charging any fees or anything, just as another way to support businesses,” said Mees. “If it is successful and something to continue, then I would suggest that we create a bylaw and have it be an ongoing option for businesses.”
Nancy Allanson, the Chamber of Commerce  Executive Director, says many businesses from their membership added input into the draft.
“The municipality gave the chamber the opportunity to reach out to our membership to get some feedback and it was an overwhelming response,” said Allanson. “The membership certainly, for those who gave their thoughts, was wholeheartedly absolutely for it.”
You can hear more audio from business owners in Trent Hills at the bottom of the story.
Further discussion will be held on April 20 as to what changes have been made to the draft and whether or not this policy will be approved.
“I do know that council is very supportive of this. The discussion at the meeting of April 6 was quite positive,” said Mees. “The council members who commented were all in support of the program and pleased to see that it had come before them.”
Crate confirms this as he said, “The council is in favour of it so I think it will go through. We will try to be as accommodating as possible.”
Once approved, Mees says, “We are going to, as a staff, endeavour to get these applications reviewed and approved as quickly as we can.”
Once the policy is approved she says she can start processing applications whether or not the start date for opening these outdoor patios changes.
“I plan on being pretty busy,” she said with a chuckle.http://www.qnetnews.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/AudioOutdoorPatio.mp3