Shoppers and diners will be able to get 30 minutes of free parking in Coquitlam’s City Centre starting Dec. 15.
The move was unanimously approved by council Monday as part of its second wave of pandemic-relief measures to help residents, businesses and non-profit groups struggling because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Coquitlam is the only municipality in Metro Vancouver to roll out such a substantial package, said deputy manager Raul Allueva in his update about the Community Support and Recovery Plan (CSRP).
In total, the city will have spent $1.3 million this year to help Coquitlam bounce back including offering free on-street parking in City Centre for 30 minutes, allowing extensions for utility and property tax, launching Meals for Seniors, reducing fees for drop-in recreation activities, providing community grants, waiving late fees for business licences, and donating $50,000 to the Share food and rent banks.
And, next year, millions more will go toward:
• new public WiFi spots at Galloway and Brookmere parks, the dog park at Mundy Park and the Blue Mountain Park tennis courts;
• grants for neighbourhoods to host physically distanced block parties, in the spring and summer, and for cultural groups for COVID-related activities that target low- and no-cost programs;
• and economic development help for businesses.
As well, the city intends to offer free legal advice services to residents and non-profits on pandemic-related issues, and start a green street pilot program for outdoor gatherings (see below).
Additionally, city staff will look at expanding the Get Connected, Get Active recreation program — for low-income families — and free or reduced-cost facility rentals to community groups.
In May, city council earmarked $5 million from the infrastructure reserve to pay for a phased-in CSRP.
Allueva told the committee the intent of the CSRP is to be wide-reaching and cover as many residents, businesses and organizations as possible; the program will be reviewed each quarter, he said.
Coun. Bonita Zarrillo said she’s grateful the municipality is in a strong financial position to be able to provide the relief and build resiliency.
And Coun. Brent Asmundson said Coquitlam is “trying to stay in our lane” by not over-stretching budgets and reserves; however, he spoke against the neighbourhood block parties until a vaccine is in wide use as well as the difficulties with enforcing a 30-minute free parking limit in City Centre
Meanwhile, also part of the CSRP, city council on Monday OK’d a policy to exempt businesses from some sign bylaw requirements, to help Coquitlam companies recover during the pandemic.
The signage relaxations apply to licensed businesses — and not home-based businesses — that want to put out sandwich boards, temporary signs, banners and window signs, to encourage more shoppers and diners.
The temporary signs would advertise, for example, new hours of operation, physical distancing protocols, and changes of services and inventory.
Coquitlam plans to turn a few sections of its streets into social hubs next year.
Its Pop-Up Green Street Pilot Program, of which the design guidelines went before Monday’s council-in-committee meeting, aims to repurpose two or three spaces with patios or a mini beach, in Burquitlam, Austin Heights, Maillardville or City Centre.
Coun. Craig Hodge said the small spaces are especially important during the pandemic as people need to socialize. He’d like to see the area under the Evergreen Line be programmed while Coun. Trish Mandewo said she’d prefer to have come heritage and cultural components to the pop-up spaces — perhaps championed by young people.