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Outdoor space now available for Trent Hills’ businesses to expand

Trent Hills council meeting discusses the temporary sidewalk use policy brought forward by Kira Mees, the community development officer. Photo by Maria Toews, QNet News

By Maria Toews [1]

BELLEVILLE – Trent Hills council has passed a policy that allows businesses to expand their outdoor space to sidewalks, parking lots and municipal land surrounding their store.

“We just wanted to be ready and give people as much space – literally space – where they could expand,” says Kira Mees, the community development officer.

The new policy is called the temporary sidewalk use policy [2] which replaces the temporary outdoor patio policy Mees proposed at the last council meeting. The draft was brought forward on April 6 and was approved on Tuesday at the Trent Hills [3] council meeting. 

The new policy comes after a pilot last year, but it only involved three municipality-approved businesses.

This year, Mees has defined the policy’s rules more clearly and says she hopes that more businesses will take advantage of the policy. 

“Through this we’ve really taken that feedback and the bylaw officer and fire and planning has been involved in the refinement of the policy,” she said at the council meeting. 

Currently, the policy is still considered a pilot because the municipality wants to allow businesses to use the outdoor space free of charge. 

“This year will be a pilot again because we’re not charging any fees or anything, just as another way to support businesses,” she said.

“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.” 

Since this policy has been approved, the application process for businesses is now open. 

“The application process includes a submission of a site plan with all the measurements of what they are proposing and then we’ll do a site visit. That will include the bylaw officer, the fire prevention officer, myself and the roads manager,” said Mees.

She says that new space will be good for the community during the pandemic.

“When you look down a street and you see people out I think that’s just gonna boost the spirits of the community,” she said. “Now obviously that is doing it in a very safe way because all of the distancing, masking and all that jazz needs to be adhered to but I think it will be a nice animation. Having the downtown street animated is really important.”

She believes this will be a good annual event to help the business community in future years as well.

“Anything that makes the downtown seem vibrant, busy and occupied is good because maybe just somebody driving by will look down the street and see the patios and see the umbrellas and the people out and it just looks inviting. It’s inspiring to make people want to stop and check it out.”

When Mayor Bob Crate was asked if he thinks this policy will be implemented in future years and possibly after COVID he said, “Yes, I do. I think if this goes well, then I believe it is something that would carry on.”

“I think it’s something that people are looking forward to,” says Bob Crate regarding the policy. Photo courtesy of Bob Crate

Despite the unpredictable future, Mees says this is a good time to bring the policy forward.

“We know that these things take time to decide if it’s going to work in each individual business case so we just hoped to have it ready before the nice weather and before this particular stay-at-home order is finished so that people would have some time to plan.”

She says she is optimistic about the plan and is eager to process business applications. 

“I think this is a good example of bringing something proactively forward and getting good consultation and really bringing something that I hope is successful (to the community),” she said.