With Tofino’s hot summer sun begging to be enjoyed, Tofino’s newest restaurant, Wolf in the Fog, figured it was time for a bigger patio.
The patio could not expand without encroaching onto district owned land so the restaurant had to ask Tofino’s municipal council for permission to lease about 120 sq. metres of sidewalk space leaving 1.5 metres for pedestrians. Council voted in favour of leasing the space for a two-year term at $2,019 a year or $16.83 per sq. ft. with just one councillor in opposition.
Before council kicked off its discussion, Coun. Dorothy Baert immediately made a motion to deny the request but found no councillor willing to second.
Coun. Duncan McMaster made the motion to accept the restaurant’s request and said he was in favour of the patio expansion because tourists are used to eating outdoors.
“I see this all the time traveling around the world…People are used to dining at street level and we have a lot of tourists here and I think they’re used to it as well,” he said.
Coun. Al Anderson was in favour of the idea but was hesitant about whether the district was charging the right amount.
The $2,019 annual price tag was reached by assessing the market rate of the adjacent property but Anderson said he would have preferred a broader market rate study. “I want to ensure that this is fair to all businesses, if it stays at that fee for five years it might, over time, become a benefit to this business,” he said.
District CAO Bob MacPherson said the lease agreement was only for a two-year term and council could conduct a broader market study when the two sides come to the bargaining table again in 2016.
“That’s something we could consider as a review in two years,” he said but noted, “The cost of (district) staff actually reviewing that would be more than any change in price might be.”
Baert clarified her opposition by saying she initially liked the proposed patio’s “urban feel of people spilling into the street,” but then took a closer look at how it would affect foot traffic and how it “would play out in that section of the public realm.”
She said vehicles park on the sidewalk immediately next to the patio and pedestrians would be hard pressed to squeeze through if the patio expanded.
“I don’t think it’s yet been thought through enough,” she said. “I think we want to protect that public space and this just doesn’t give a whole lot of access if that encroachment happens.”
Coun. Garth Cameron said he understood Baert’s concerns but that he was okay with the application because of the two-year term. “If it was for longer than that I’d have more of an issue with it,” he said. “There might be 1.5 metres (of sidewalk left) but is it user friendly, does it make sense to have that kind of public pedestrian flow through there?” MacPherson said the area does not see heavy foot traffic.
“There’s really one business beyond here where pedestrians might be kind of pinched off getting there,” he said. “It’s not a significant concern of mine.”
Coun. Cathy Thicke noted the community charter forbids local governments from benefiting a business but MacPherson clarified that the district would not be giving the space away.
“This is proposed to be a commercial transaction between the district who owns this land and the adjacent land owner,” he said. “It’s not gifting a benefit, it’s a commercial exchange.”
Mayor Josie Osborne was in favour of allowing the patio to encroach onto the sidewalk.
“I understand the concerns that have been expressed but, myself, I feel it is a benefit to that part of the neighborhood and the community,” she said. “I don’t feel there will be a bigger impact from the way it currently is from expanding it slightly.”
The expansion will bring 11 additional outdoor seats but restaurant’s total number of seats of 150 will not increase, according to a report filed by the district’s manager of community sustainability Aaron Rodgers.
The agreement can be cancelled by either the restaurant or the district with 30 days notice.