City OKs Open Air Dining, Other Services in Parking Areas

The city of Canby will allow businesses to expand their operations into private parking lots without a permit — as long as they meet the requirements of the new Open Air Canby Recovery Program.

The program was presented to and approved by the Canby City Council at its regular meeting last week, and is designed to help ease the financial impacts of the coronavirus-era social distancing restrictions.

“As you can imagine, this has been really difficult for our local businesses, particularly some of our restaurants and drinking establishments,” Canby Economic Development Director Jamie Stickel said of the statewide Covid-19 guidelines, which have required most eateries to cut their indoor occupancy by at least 50%.

Spearheaded by Economic Development and Tourism Coordinator Calvin LeSueur, the program was modeled after similar efforts in Beaverton, Milwaukie and Oregon City. It would allow for most city parking requirements and relevant city building codes to be suspended — though businesses would not be allowed to encroach on handicapped spaces, emergency areas, loading zones or traffic lanes.

Though no permit is required, the program does have an application and review process, handled administratively through LeSueur’s office.

“Really, the goal is to make sure that this process is as simple as possible, while also encouraging all of the safety protocols to be in place,” Stickel explained.

Stickel said three businesses have already expressed interest in the new program: Los Dorados, Wayward Sandwiches and FOB Taproom.

“They really contacted us early on and were interested in expanding,” Stickel said of the taproom, located in Canby Place, whose parking lot is somewhat notorious for the headaches it causes local drivers. “I know our planning department worked tirelessly to look at the code and try and make it work for them, and it just wasn’t a good fit.

“So, that’s kind of sparked the idea that maybe we need to create something that would temporarily allow a deviation from the code.”

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The Open Air Recovery Program was designed to complement the city’s existing sidewalk cafe permit program, for which fees have been waived this year to allow for additional seating in walking areas. The program is in effect citywide and runs through the end of December 2021 — though it can be extended, if needed.

Councilor Sarah Spoon thanked the economic development team for their work in enacting the new policy — but pointed out the obvious.

“I’m wondering if we could have some sister ordinance or something, which would also pave the way to reduce the steps to get a tent up for the period of time that this is in place,” she said. “It’s great to have outdoor seating, but there’s going to be some months coming here very quickly, where it’s not going to be as much use when the weather turns.”

Stickel agreed that staff would work to either implement a sister ordinance or otherwise ensure that the steps for erecting a temporary tent would be similarly streamlined.

Wayward Sandwiches, one of the restaurants she said planned to take advantage of the new Open Air program, set up a large outdoor tent this week. However, it took the place of the restaurant’s normal outdoor seating in the Canby Civic Block — rather than expanding into a parking area.

The Open Air program is intended to promote recovery of small businesses, and the safety and health of customers of restaurants, personal services and recreational use establishments operating under the phase 1 coronavirus restrictions that remain in effect for Clackamas County.

It allows expansion onto private parking areas only — not street parking — by temporarily suspending the enforcement of the city’s parking minimums for businesses. An existing sidewalk cafe permit application is available for business expansion into the public right-of-way.

The expansion area must be immediately adjacent to the parent business, and all relevant Covid-19 guidelines must still be observed.

For more information about the Open Air Canby Recovery Program, contact LeSueur at 503-266-0772 or lesueurc@canbyoregon.gov.

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