Tofino's district office is mulling a new cafe proposal.

Parking concerns stall potential new cafe in Tofino

“I know we tell staff to walk or ride bicycles but it doesn't happen."

A new restaurant is being proposed for Campbell Street but Tofino’s municipal council is concerned about where its patrons, and staff, will park.

Dylan Green’s 551 Campbell Street property is currently zoned for two 12-seat restaurants but Green is hoping the district will approve an amendment that would allow for one 20-seat restaurant and a retail business.

He pitched his plan to council during Tofino’s Oct. 4 regular meeting and said the tenant he has found to operate the restaurant had wanted 28 seats but the property does not have enough parking spaces for that without paying into the district’s parking in lieu fund.

Under Tofino’s zoning bylaw, a restaurant must have at least one parking spot for every four seats.

Restaurants can operate with less than the mandatory number of parking spots only if the owner pays into the district’s parking in lieu coffers. A parking in lieu spot runs $250 a year or a one-time lump sum of $3,000. Funds paid into parking in lieu are earmarked for parking infrastructure projects.

“If we had went for 28 seats plus the retail, we wouldn’t have enough parking on site so we’d have to rent or buy this sort of fictitious parking,” Green said. “That’s when we went back to the potential tenant and they do believe they can make a go with it for 20 seats.”

Green noted his property has enough parking spots to accommodate a 20-seat restaurant under Tofino’s bylaws and reiterated he could legally open two 12-seat restaurants as is.

“With this approach, we’re only going to have one cafe on the property and they can only have a maximum of 20 seats,” he said. “Potentially we could have 24 seats right now, but that’s not the goal.”

The restaurant’s parking would be on Cypre Crescent and Coun. Al Anderson expressed concern over parking congestion and loading trucks.

“As Tofino gets busier and busier all over town, there’s a lot of trucks parking and blocking at least one lane of the streets,” he said. “It’s causing a bit of concern for me and some of the residents around town so i’ll be looking pretty closely at that. Parking is a big question for me as well. I wouldn’t want to see the residents up Cypre Crescent putting up with a lot more parking in front of their houses.”

Coun. Ray Thorogood agreed.

“I too am going to be looking at the parking. It’s been a problem, particularly this year, for us,” he said.

Coun. Duncan McMaster asked where the restaurant’s staff would be expected to park.

“I know we tell staff to walk or ride bicycles but it doesn’t happen,” he said.

Green suggested staff-parking was not specified in the bylaw but this response didn’t deter McMaster’s concerns.

“You’re just pushing the stress onto the street. I know what the regulations are but in reality…,” McMaster said without finishing his sentence.

Staff parking was captured in Tofino’s former zoning bylaw, which stipulated a cafe must have one parking spot for every three seats and one parking spot for every three employees, but these parameters have since merged into the current one spot for ever four seats law.

District CAO Bob MacPherson told council that staff could report back on the cafe’s parking implications but suggested the zoning bylaw might need to be revisited.

“It’s a bit of a tricky one where what’s being proposed complies with council’s bylaw,” he said.

“We use the bylaw to try to keep a fairly level playing field and if there’s an issue with what the bylaw prescribes then, I think, we kind of need to go beyond this application and have a look at that.”

The district’s manager of community sustainability Aaron Rodgers said his office and Green had reached the 20-seat compromise because the property had enough parking spots to handle that.

“The spaces are based off our bylaw..In our bylaw we don’t have requirements for staff or employees,” he said stressing the property’s zoning allows for two 12-seat cafes.

“I think we sometimes get ourselves hyper-focused on one application but this is a very small change to a small lot. Were talking about eight extra seats. There is no slippery slope here…It doesn’t change the fact that we have a problem with parking in the summertime. I’m not sure there is an overall solution to that anyways, I just don’t think this is the tipping point.”

Coun. Cathy Thicke disagreed.

“I have trouble with the argument that this is a small change…I know that you say it’s only eight seats but it has huge impact,” she said.

“To me the whole traffic flow raises red flags for me in that area…I personally don’t feel that going from 12 to 20 is a minor change, in terms of all the other things that it triggers, it’s quite large.”

Mayor Josie Osborne also expressed concerns over parking but added the issue was solvable, hopefully in short order.

“I don’t want this to take forever,” she said. “I would be disappointed if this takes a year to resolve. I hope that we can deal with this pretty quickly so that there’s some certainty for the landowner and he can move ahead with the business decisions he needs to move ahead with.”

Anderson said parking should be looked at carefully but reiterated that the area is zoned for two 12-seat restaurants.

“We’re actually going down in the number of seats from 24 to 20. I’d just like everyone to be really clear on what we’re talking about here,” he said. “The number of seats is actually dropping by four overall.”

Osborne agreed but added the retail business could become a popular spot.

“It might not be a cafe but it could be something that has a lot of people in it in the future so we do have to be mindful of that,” she said.

“It could be a surf rental shop, which we know has a lot of traffic associated; it’s not proposed to be right now, but it could be so of course we have think about that kind of heavier use.”

Council directed staff to come back with a report on the potential restaurant’s potential impacts on the neighbourhood’s parking and traffic flow.

“There’s a lot of red flags from everybody around this table,” McMaster said.