Parking requirements reduced

Bylaw amendment affects C-1 retail businesses on Main St., from Railway Ave. to Highway 16.

Smithers council has reduced the parking requirements for new retail businesses in the C-1 zone on Main Street, between Railway Ave. and Highway 16.

At the regular council meeting June 24, councillors voted to amend the parking bylaw to require new retail businesses in the C-1 zone to develop one parking space per 100 metres of store space.

The change was first brought up by councillor Phil Brienesse during the regular May 13 meeting. Brienesse had originally proposed reducing the parking requirement for retail uses in the C-1 zone between Railway Ave. and Highway 16 from one space per 60 square metres of floor space to one space per 180 metres. It was eventually agreed by councillors to amend the parking requirement to one space per 100 square metres of retail space.

The bylaw amendment was an effort to retain new business and encourage redevelopment to keep Smithers’ downtown unique and vibrant, Brienesse said.

Mayor Taylor Bachrach said the intent is to help new business owners keep costs as low as possible when they are beginning a new venture.

“At the end of the day, it has to do with the costs and part of that involves parking,” Bachrach said “If we can give them even an incremental leg up over online retailers and people going out of town, than I think it’s our responsibility to try it. If the sky starts falling, we’ll reverse course as quickly as possible but I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

Previously, building owners were required to provide one parking space per 60 square metres of gross floor area. Their options were to build the spots on site, provide parking on another property within a certain distance if they are granted a covenant by the property owner or pay the town $9,500 for each space. Any funds collected by the town go into a special reserve which is only used to develop parking lots.

Councillors Charlie Northrup and Mark Bandstra were opposed to the motion.

Counc. Northrup said he felt their needed to be more consultation done before the change was made.

“It’s a major issue,” he said. “I think we should have at least had a discussion with the developers and landowners.”