Council approves relief for Port Coquitlam businesses

Licence fees will be waived for establishments affected by construction

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By Christopher MacMillan

Port Coquitlam is giving a financial break to downtown businesses dealing with ongoing road construction that has driven away customers.

The McAllister Avenue construction is part of a larger redevelopment plan, which started in the spring of last year, to transform the downtown core into a one-way street, including a multi-use path and a pedestrian concourse. But work on the major route has faced difficulties and delays, and was further delayed by bad weather last December.

McAllister Avenue is in the heart of downtown Port Coquitlam, running perpendicular to Shaughnessy Street between Maple Street and Mary Hill Road.

City staff recommended waiving business licence fees for McAllister businesses by 50 per cent. But Port Coquitlam council decided, after some debate between councillors at a Jan. 28 council meeting, to waive all licence fees for the businesses. The waiver amounts to roughly $6,000 per business.

“Those businesses [on McAllister] have had, you know, a tough time, over the last, you know, months of this project that’s been going on, it was supposed to have been finished by February but unfortunately, we got all this snow,” Coun. Steve Darling said.

Councillor hesitation

The decision to waive the license fees entirely came after some discussion between city councillors, with Coun. Laura Dupont expressing concerns about the motion.

Dupont was concerned the move would set a precedent for similar construction projects in the future and influence which business would have their license fees waived and which would not. For example, businesses located on McAllister Avenue but with an entrance off the street were included in the waiving of licences.

“I also thought, that . . . we could be setting a precedent that down the road, with any other construction projects, that businesses might expect the same treatment. Which I think is, you know, fairly reasonable,” Dupont said.

She added she’s “coming at it from an equity perspective and wanting to make sure that we’re, you know, fair with everyone who is affected.”

Mayor Brad West shared Dupont’s concerns about setting precedents, but said McAllister Avenue was an unusual problem and any precedent set would be beneficial for the city.

“I think it’s important to always be aware of the impacts of our decisions and setting precedents. But as I said to Coun. Dupont during that discussion, what we’re dealing with in this instance is a very unique set of circumstances that are unlikely to replicate themselves in the future. But if they did, then I would have no issue also providing a waive business license fees in that instance as well,” West said.

Despite her concerns, Dupont joined the rest of council in approving the waiver of all fees.

“I think it’s important, you know, obviously, that we support those businesses, local businesses, that have been disrupted and faced challenges with, you know, doing their business while we do big construction projects in the downtown core.”

Parking woes

Businesses on McAllister have seen a drop in customers as construction dragged on.

Marya Ricker, a musical director with the Tri-City School of Music, says the construction caused extreme parking problems for their clients and “is heavily affecting [their] business.”

Ricker said she was frustrated in her attempts to get city council to address the parking issues last year.

“We went to city council, as well, to help with one of the businesses down from our business with their issues with parking . . . and I sort of spoke on behalf of the building owner to help . . . with parking and they assured us that after the construction was completed the parking would improve.”

Despite those early difficulties, she said her business’s concerns were eventually addressed by the council’s decision to waive license fees and that she was happy with the decision.

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