A proposal made at Fernie’s committee of the whole meeting on May 19 would see Second Avenue transformed into a pedestrian only space for the upcoming summer.
In his speech, Phil Gadd from The Loaf referenced provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry’s statement claiming that being outside is safer than being inside. His proposal supported businesses expanding patio usage to serve more clients while honouring distancing regulations. He also suggested creating a market type environment by allowing retail shops to bring merchandise outdoors.
Specifically, the proposal requested increased flexibility for patio sizes and types, along with expedited permits allowing patios to expand. It also called for the allowance of pop-up outdoor dining and the use of public spaces and parklets for dining.
Stating that other tourism based municipalities such as Canmore and Breckenridge are considering the same motion, the proposal mentioned the vibrancy that a pedestrian only street would add to Fernie. According to Gadd, flexible solutions are required to help local businesses survive COVID-19.
The proposal also included a growing list of local businesses and residents on board with the proposition.
“We’ve done a lot of brainstorming for us to open The Northern back up but we are asking for some help from the city to make it worthwhile. In our opinion the safest way would be to extend our curbside patio for the summer. This would allow us to serve more patrons while maintaining social distancing outdoors,” said Angela Magliocco from the Northern Bar and Grill to council members during the presentation.
Magliocco proposed options for helping businesses on Second Avenue. The first option was to completely shut down all car traffic on Second Avenue to allow patios to extend into the street. The second recommendation was to extend patios south onto Second Avenue, reducing traffic to one lane. The final option was to extend patios east along Second Avenue, which would not limit traffic but rather reduce parking spots.
In addition, Magliocco offered four alternative ideas to solve potential parking issues. The first recommendation was that all adjacent spots on side streets closest to Second Avenue be reserved for the disabled, seniors, elderly, and immobile. The second option was to grant permission to the three doctor’s offices to let patients park and enter through the rear of buildings, keeping in mind that most doctors are reducing walk in traffic at the moment. The third option was to create a golf cart or bike buggy transportation system to transport those with limited mobility. The final suggestion was to turn Second Avenue into a one way street in the mornings, to accommodate for the previously stated groups, but close it to traffic at noon.
As it stands, all further actions and community engagement will be taken on by the city’s planning department and operations department, rather than business owners. Council is currently asking staff to explore the changing use of Second Avenue. The idea is to address expanding patronage for Second Avenue and bring forth recommendations for more patio usage throughout the community in response to the pandemic. The proposal will be further addressed at an upcoming council meeting.
Ultimately, Magliocco stated in her presentation that in order for Fernie to remain vibrant and able to safely cater to tourists, trades, and residents, outdoor expansion is the safest option for social distancing while still simulating the local economy.