Roadblocks continue to interrupt attempts to close 30th Avenue amid the latest provincial health restrictions hurting restaurants.
Vernon has been looking into closing a portion of the main drag, which would allow businesses to extend their patio space onto the street. Restaurants, pubs and cafés, specifically, have been limited to outdoor dining until at least May long weekend due to high COVID-19 numbers.
“The major consensus among all of them (businesses) is whether they were in favour or against, there needs to be consultation,” Coun. Akbal Mund said, after speaking virtually all businesses in the 2900 and 3000 blocks.
With that in mind, the city is asking the Downtown Vernon Association if it can conduct consultation of shops in the affected blocks, and if so, what the timeline looks like.
“I think we’re a year away,” Mayor Victor Cumming said. “Success comes with something well-planned. What we know from other communities is, do it right.”
Most of council, including the mayor, have personally spoken with businesses in the area, and have seen overwhelming support in the 2900 block, while those in the 3000 block were mostly opposed.
“Some businesses will be negatively impacted if we do this. Some businesses will be positively impacted if we do this,” Cumming said.
Many have already adapted their operations to comply with health restrictions and cannot withstand any more change.
“I’m already in trouble but this (road closure) smells like the end,” one told the mayor.
Vernon Teach and Learn expressed considerable opposition to a road closure, which would curb easy pickup options that have been implemented.
“They have pretty good reasons for not wanting it,” Coun. Brian Quiring said.
It was suggested that perhaps a trial closure of just the 2900 block could be put in place, and limited to a few evenings and/or just the weekend.
“It’s just speculation that this closure is going to have a negative impact,” Coun. Kari Gares said. “It’s fear of the unknown.”
Coun. Scott Anderson was also disheartened to see that these efforts could be further delayed.
“Kelowna closed four blocks virtually permanently for summer with very little consultation in the first year,” he said. “And now they’re doing it again. We (Vernon) are talking about two blocks, possibly one.”
The ongoing investigation into the matter is also eating up limited staff time.
“We have got to stop doing this to them,” Coun. Kelly Fehr said. “Any deviation to their workload right now impacts development applications.”
Coun. Dalvir Nahal — who put the motion forward — was not able to attend the Monday, May 10, council meeting to discuss the matter.