City of Powell River Council discusses street vending proposal

Councillors give first three readings to amended bylaw

City of Powell River Council gave its first three readings to a bylaw amendment that would expand the territory in which street vendors can operate.

At the April 29 council meeting, councillor Rob Southcott said the draft bylaw amendment represents one substantive change, which is lifting of restrictions as they relate to operation of stationary vendors on vacant parcels outside of the city’s commercial and industrial precincts. Southcott said one is an area where street vendors had previously operated. He said it was not in accordance with the existing bylaw.

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Southcott said he wanted to commend the planning department for its work in the last couple of years in trying, through the street vending bylaw, to make it easy for street vendors to work in Powell River in appropriate locations.

“There’s been quite a bit of work done with the vendors themselves,” said Southcott. “I really appreciate that.”

Southcott said the proposed bylaw amendment includes several housekeeping updates to make the bylaw clearer and more understandable.

Councillor Jim Palm said at a previous meeting, when the issue was initially brought up, there was reference to a particular site at the entrance to the community in the Grief Point area. He asked if there had been any special wording put into the bylaw indicating that the site had to be made attractive.

Director of planning services Thomas Knight said the matter had come up and Jason Gow, manager of planning services, who was dealing with the file, said there may be certain ways to influence the individuals to encourage them to have a better-looking site.

“What we are really dealing with is a business licence that doesn’t give us a lot of leverage,” said Knight. “It’s not a development permit area. In development permit areas we have a lot of sway.

“In this case, however, Jason recognizes it’s an important requirement, so I think Jason will do his best.”

Councillor Maggie Hathaway said she had similar concerns. She said traditionally, the space in question has not looked attractive.

“I wish there was something we could do that actually had some teeth in it,” said Hathaway.

According to a staff report, the city issued licences to five street vending businesses in 2019, four of which sold food at a variety of permitted locations. The report stated that the city’s planning staff was recently made aware of an additional food street vendor who had been operating seasonally at a vacant commercially zoned property in the Grief Point area with a licence incorrectly issued under the business licence bylaw.

As a result, the city’s bylaw enforcement forced the vendor to cease operation, the report stated. Following this, the vendor and property owner approached planning staff to understand what had changed. It was explained that staff had erred by issuing the business licence and both parties requested that council consider amendments to the street vending bylaw to permit this business to operate in the Grief Point location, according to the staff report.

This request prompted staff to review current policies in the bylaw related to vacant land and analyze the potential impact of relaxing some of the restrictions.

In the bylaw amendment, in addition to the Grief Point property, parcels of land in Wildwood would be affected.

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