Grab your fork and belly up to the table, because Collingwood councillors will be talking food on Monday.
At the March 7 corporate and community services standing committee meeting, council will be considering two items that relate to downtown patios and food trucks and how they operate in Collingwood.
First, councillors will be considering extending their boulevard encroachment permit bylaw to Dec. 31, 2022, which was first passed earlier in the pandemic to allow downtown business owners to use street parking, parking lots, and more sidewalk for outdoor patios and merchandise displays last year.
Businesses can also apply for winter permits to keep their patios open all year round.
According to the staff report, in 2021 there were 11 patios that received permits under the bylaw as well as four additional sidewalk patios. Two food establishments maintained winter patios.
Staff are recommending that any applicable permit fees associated with the bylaw continue to be waived for 2022 to assist businesses during the pandemic in their recovery efforts.
The second item to be considered by councillors on Monday is a proposed bylaw change that could see food trucks in parks across Collingwood after the town received public feedback overwhelmingly in favour of the idea over the past few months.
“The town’s business licensing bylaw has not been updated in over ten years. As a result, many of the requirements regarding licensing of food vendors...are out of date and do not currently reflect today’s needs or best practices,” notes town bylaw supervisor Adam Harrod in his report to councillors.
After significant discussion on the matter last year, the town put out a survey on their Engage Collingwood page to gather public input into the subject.
The survey posed questions on what framework would be best for assigning locations, the licensing of food vendors on private property, distance requirements, special events and the serving of alcohol.
More than 300 responses were received, of which 87.7 per cent identified as residents of Collingwood.
“Support for food vendors in municipal parks was very strong with 97 per cent of respondents indicating they were in favour of them,” notes Harrod in his report. “There were some comments indicating that they detracted from the natural beauty of parks or took revenue away from nearby businesses, but this represented only a ... minority opinion.”
There was also strong support for increasing the number of food vendors in parks and expanding them to previously unavailable locations such as Sunset Point Park.
Many respondents indicated that permitting a permanent or semi-permanent food vendor park or fair would be “a welcome attraction for Collingwood,” wrote Harrod.
Under the proposed bylaw changes, spots may be assigned on a modified lottery basis. Under this system, interested vendors would be required to apply by April 1 each year and self-select a general food category. A map of available vendor locations on public property would be posted to the town website prior to the application deadline.
In the event two or more applications under the same food category were received for the same location, a lottery would be conducted from those applications to determine which would be permitted in that location. The winner of that lottery and all other applications for the same location would be entered into another lottery with the winner(s) drawn at random.
Applicants would be permitted to apply for multiple public locations. Previously, vendors were granted locations on a first-come-first-serve basis.
For 2022 only, staff are proposing the deadline instead be April 30 to allow sufficient time for vendors to apply pending the approval of the amended bylaw.
“As the demand to operate a food truck in municipal parks have increased in popularity over the past couple of years, and to ensure the food being offered in a particular park when there is more than one food vendor is not the same to better enhance the park experience, it has become apparent that a more streamlined system is necessary to award high-profile park positions to food vendors to ensure equal opportunity for all applicants,” noted Harrod.
Part of the staff report explores the option of allowing food vendors that sell alcohol in municipal parks. The report concludes that additional research is needed on the subject, as it could raise safety concerns and is possibly in conflict with the Waterfront Master Plan, which encourages “offering an increasingly diverse set of land and water activities with something for everyone.”
To access the full report, click here.
The Town of Collingwood’s corporate and community services standing committee meeting takes place Monday at 2 p.m., and will be livestreamed through the town’s YouTube channel here.