Invermere revises sidewalk policy, plans to end deck rentals

The District of Invermere is getting out of the deck business.

The District of Invermere is getting out of the deck business.

During the Tuesday, February 10th  Invermere council meeting, councillors resolved to revise the district’s Sidewalk and Right of Way Occupancy policy. Under the revised policy, there is now criteria for would-be sidewalk vendors and the district will, as of 2018, stop renting out decks to businesses along Invermere’s main street (7th Avenue).

“We’re trying to ensure quality in street vending,” said Invermere mayor Gerry Taft, speaking to the reasons for introducing street vendor criteria.

“There’s now a set of criteria that will help us ensure whatever street vending happens adds to the downtown vibrancy has quality products and doesn’t directly compete with nearby permanent businesses. That’s what we’re trying to avoid,” he said, adding there had been some concern along these lines from local business owners in the past.

The new sidewalk policy also means the district won’t be building any new decks on main street, said Taft, adding that the current decks will probably be close to the end of their lifespan come 2018.

“There’s going to be some grumbling,” said councillor Justin Atterbury, but he added that, realistically, the move makes sense.

Construction of or maintenance of new decks will be up to the businesses, beginning in 2018.

Currently, the one or two parking spaces on which the decks sit are rented for about $600 to the businesses who make use of one of the district’s four or five decks, Taft later told The Valley Echo.

Included in the rent are the parking spaces, the actual physical deck, and the district installs them in front of the businesses at the start of summer, removes them at the end of fall, and provides maintenance on them throughout the summer.

“They’re (the renting businesses) getting really good value,” said Taft, adding the deck-renting policy began about 15 years ago or so, as an effort by the council of the day to enhance Invermere’s downtown.

“Going forward, it’s not just about the ongoing cost to the district, but also it’s a fairness argument — how much should the district invest in decks that benefit specific businesses,” he said, adding the district has had some non-deck renting business complain about this, as well as about the loss of parking spaces for potential customers.

“Our current decision is that once these decks are at the end of their lifespan, we as the district will be getting out of the deck business,” said Taft. He added the district does, however, plan to work with deck-renting businesses to see if they are interested in taking over the decks.

Invermere Bakery (formerly Quality Bakery) owner Peter Banga said he can’t comment too much on the decision until he knows more about the details of it.

The bakery is one of several businesses on the main street that have decks every summer.

“The details are important for me, to say one way or the other,” said Banga. “People appreciate it. It gives a bit of extra space. People like to hang around it outside, but it’s hard for me to say if I really benefit from spending $600 a year on it (in rent to the district), or if it’s more something that’s a financial loss for me that I do as a kind of a service.”

The Valley Echo attempted to contact the owners of other businesses that traditionally rent decks during the summer, but was unable to reach them prior to press deadline.