By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express
City council is looking to continue protecting the public from COVID-19 as more and more businesses open up and restaurant patios begin to line the streets.
At the most recent city council meeting, councillors voted to help restaurants adapt roadways, sidewalks, parking lots, on-street parking stalls, and other usable outdoor spaces to be used as outdoor dining areas for restaurants.
Staff have also been authorized to implement any necessary measures to keep residents safe. This includes road closures, traffic calming, lane closures, parking stall closures, sidewalk closures.
If a sidewalk were to close, the report given to council indicates appropriate measures will be taken, such as turning parking stalls into pedestrian walk-arounds.
Equipment provided by the city could include fencing, outdoor tables, and signage.
After an attempt to make an amendment by Ward 4 City and Regional Councillor Rick Kerr was voted down by the rest of council, his ward partner Derek Giberson brought forward another motion to make sure it was clear that staff from all departments were involved, as well as the Region of Durham.
However, the amendment caused some confusion, as Ward 5 City and Regional Councillor Brian Nicholson said he was initially inclined to support the amendment, but had concerns over the need to include the region. He questions the region’s role in city road closures, local sidewalks and parking spaces.
“I’ll be supporting the first part of the amendment, but I think the second part is redundant,” he says, adding the region’s role would add more red tape to the process.
According to Commissioner of Community Services Ron Diskey, the city has been given permission by the region to close any parking spaces on regional roads in Oshawa.
Ultimately, council was unanimously in favour of the amendment.
Ward 5 City Councillor John Gray expressed his concern about the application process, and wondered if it would be both online, and in person.
Commissioner of Development Services Warren Munro explains there will be an online application, but some in-person inspections will be needed.
He says depending on the individual circumstances, the application will be available online, but it might require a staff member to visit the site.
Gray notes he’s had a couple of requests from restaurants for help, but they aren’t downtown.
Munro explains the restaurants outside of the downtown core will need to be inspected.
Before the final vote, Giberson expressed his approval for the process.
“It’s good to see that all efforts are leading towards one point here,” he says.
However, he reminds residents the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over, and they should still be cautious.
“We aren’t out of the woods yet. We’re only in phase two,” he says.
While the opening of patios will help with people’s mental health, Giberson says residents shouldn’t “throw caution to the wind.”
“Let’s make sure that we’re safe, and that we do this safe,” he says.