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Niagara Falls
Sunday, March 3, 2024
Parking problems pause permanent patio plans
Couns. Nick Ruller and Maria Mavridis both bring up the town's parking issues in a talk about patio plans. EVAN LOREE
Sandra O'Connor suggests the town close the temporary patio program and focus on other issues. EVAN LOREE

Council has, for the fourth year in a row, decided to renew its temporary patio program, though questions remain over whether it should be made permanent.

Niagara-on-the-Lake councillors decided not to support a permanent patio program, saying a lengthy staff report didn’t adequately deal with many of their concerns.

“I’m being asked to support something, but I don’t have any of the information to make an informed decision,” Coun. Nick Ruller said.

His reluctance was spurred by a 52-page staff report that suggested council support the creation of a permanent seasonal patio program.

An appendix attached to the report shared the results of a town survey in which nearly 93 per cent of 394 respondents said they supported the town’s patio program.

The same survey found that some residents felt the patio program would be even better if Queen Street was a pedestrian-only zone.

The town introduced the temporary patio program in 2020 to support restaurants that were suffering during COVID-19 lockdowns.

The seasonal program permits NOTL restaurants to run patios on public property adjacent to their business.

If the town switches to a permanent program, the municipality won’t have to renew or review it each year, as it does now.

“Moving forward, a lot more needs to go into a report before I can make a solid decision because we are changing the streetscape of Queen Street,” said Coun. Maria Mavridis.

The town has issued 37 seasonal patio permits, eight of which go to restaurants on Queen Street, said the staff report. 

Mavridis said there were 26 food establishments on Queen Street alone.

Coun. Gary Burroughs wondered if all of them would qualify for a patio permit if the town moved to make the concept permanent. 

And Mavridis wanted to know how the town would make up revenue lost from parking spaces occupied by future patios.

The staff report proposed imposing a fee of 50 per cent of the daily parking rate in order for patios to take over some parking spots.

Coun. Sandra O’Connor shared both of Mavridis’s concerns and added the program makes parking even tougher in Old Town.

As well, the seasonal patio program is out of step with the town’s commitment to heritage preservation, she said.

“I really don’t feel that the patio program is in the town’s best interest at this time, and therefore I move to end the patio program,” she said.

Lord Mayor Gary Zalepa said O’Connor’s suggestion was out of order, had nothing to do with the report under discussion and he therefore could not allow it to be debated.

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