City debates private use of public space

Discussion focused on sidewalk cafes, markets and community events

While the Occupy-movement protesters continue to garner headlines, their ongoing use of Centennial Square was curiously left out of a Victoria city council debate during the adoption of guidelines for the use of public space.

Instead, discussion focused on sidewalk cafes, markets, and community events.

On Oct. 20, council approved the guiding principles, which sets out criteria for approving use of public space, and how much to charge for it.

For instance, based on the new principles, the city will charge market value and full cost recovery for the commercial use of public space.

The city may also charge non-commercial users, depending on the community benefits involved.

Markets, however, fall in the messy middle.

If deemed a commercial use, the new Chinatown market would shut down if charged full market rate, posed Mayor Dean Fortin. Technically, a farmers’ market is also a commercial use, he added.

Sparking the need for policy were inconsistencies in the way the city regulates vehicles for hire, such as horse-drawn carriages and pedicabs.

At a glance:

Council adopted 12 principles guiding the use of public space. They include:

• Use of public space must be compatible with neighbouring residential or commercial uses;

• The city supports use of public space that increases the vibrancy of neighbourhoods

• The city welcomes commercial uses of public space that provide opportunities for economic growth