The long-awaited completion of a major road and sidewalk project in Port Coquitlam is still about four months away.
In the meantime, local businesses along McAllister Avenue from Shaughnessy Street to Mary Hill Road will continue to struggle as access to their establishments remains limited.
However, while it may be April before the project is complete — including landscaping — businesses along that stretch will get a little break.
It was supported at the Tuesday, Jan. 18 council in committee by PoCo councillors who unanimously voted to eliminate business licensee fees for 2022 as a gesture of understanding and support.
"Obviously construction is behind where we hoped it would be," said Mayor Brad West, who said the fee break was an acknowledgement of the challenges faced by the businesses who have been "inconvenienced" for several months, including winter weather disruption.
Staff initially suggested a fee reduction of 50 per cent, or $100 on the average business, which would cost the city $3,000 in lost revenue.
But Coun. Glenn Pollock, supported by Coun. Dean Washington, suggested the businesses shouldn't have to pay anything at all this year because they have suffered for most of 2021 and a significant chunk of 2022.
"I'd support any kind of help we could give them," said Coun. Pollock.
Coun. Washington noted that a 100 per cent fee break would do more to send a message to businesses that suffered a loss in customers during the long construction period.
"Rarely do we shut a street down completely for an extended period of time, basically fenced off and no access to it."
Other councillors agreed, including Coun. Laura Dupont, who expressed reservations about a possible precedent set for construction, but endorsed the idea anyway.
Dupont said she was concerned the city was giving a licence fee break to McAllister businesses but didn't for other businesses affected by construction of the Port Coquitlam Community Centre (PCCC).
"I'm just nervous," she said, but still supported the plan.
However, Mayor West pointed to noise and parking disturbances faced by businesses during the PCCC's construction were an inconvenience, but the city was always able to maintain road access.
"If it's a precedent we're setting, I think it’s a good precedent to set," said West. "When you look at the uniqueness of this, full closure and the length of time."
The fee break includes businesses on second floors and will either be refunded if paid or will be reduced to zero if not yet paid.
Still, while the road is closed, the new extra wide pedestrian pathway is getting some use, with walkers using the route to get to Shaughnessy Street. New light fixtures have also been installed along the street.