Three regular seasonal vendors in Canmore’s downtown core have come out against proposed changes to the Land Use Bylaw they say will put them out of business.
Kevin Bellis, owner of Thai It Up, Janelle Moodie, owner of Jungle Flair, and Blue Falconer, owner of the Old School Bus, all spoke out against changes at a recent public hearing on the bylaw.
All three said their businesses bring vibrancy to the downtown core during the summer months and contribute to the social fabric of the community by encouraging people to walk around.
Falconer called the new bylaw requirements complicated and over-regulated.
“The signal we are getting from council as small business owners is we don’t want you there,” he said. “If we have to adhere to these guidelines, I would be out of business this summer.”
One of the most significant changes the three business owners have seen is a 400 to 800 per cent increase in the fees charged for a development permit for a seasonal temporary business.
Those fees were $250 per year and changed to $350 per month as part of the master fee schedule, which formed part of the operational budget passed at the beginning of this year.
The development permit application is required annually for the business type, along with a business licence.
Falconer said no other type of business is required to make that application, which also opens it up to appeal at the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board.
In fact, in the past, the Old School Bus has seen its permit appealed to the board.
“We don’t need more fees and reasons for people to appeal us and shut us down,” he said.
Canmore Collegiate High School student Jenna Buxton spoke to the importance seasonal businesses and, most especially the Old School Bus, have for youth in the community.
“As a youth in the community, there are things and businesses that make Canmore Canmore, make it unique and make it home,” Buxton said. “For me, it would be sad for politics and taxes to stop these businesses.”
Bellis said by limiting options for businesses, the Town limits options for starting a new business.
He said Thai It Up began as a home-based idea and developed from being sold at the weekly Mountain Market to the current concession trailer.
“One of my dreams is not to be in a trailer in the rain, but in bricks and mortar,” Bellis said.
One of the contentious issues with relation to the food trailer has been the fact that with tables and chairs in place, Alberta Health requires washroom facilities.
Last season, that requirement was met with a portable toilet. However, the bylaw changes includes a section that states the development authority may require installation of washroom facilities.
“Such facilities shall be suitable in appearance and quality for the site and neighbourhood in which they are to be installed,” states the section. “For example, construction site-style portable toilet facilities are not appropriate in the Town’s commercial district.”
Bellis pointed out that with a seasonal or temporary business, a temporary washroom facility only makes sense.
Falconer agreed the regulation of washroom facilities should remain with the province.
“I don’t really understand why the Town of Canmore has to go above and beyond (Alberta Health),” Falconer said.
Another section of the bylaw gives the Town the ability to restrict hours of operation of these businesses.
Falconer questioned the necessity of that type of regulation.
The bylaw sets out that permits for seasonal or temporary businesses shall be granted for businesses which normally would not or could not occupy more permanent premises and that retail businesses “will not be encouraged”.
Moodie’s business is in fact retail-based. She said she spends the winter months travelling the world to purchase her merchandise and the summers in Canmore and at festivals selling.
“Is the Town encouraging the sight of a vacant lot with a for sale sign instead?” she asked. “My tent promotes activity and promotes small town character.”
Moodie also presented a petition with 437 signatures on it in support of keeping seasonal businesses viable.