CORNWALL, Ontario – Councillor Eric Bergeron put forward five separate motions at the latest Council meeting on Monday, May 11, all aimed at supporting community members and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first motion that drew the most attention from Council and the public was one asking for a report on the possible closure of Pitt St.
According to the motion, Bergeron asked for a report on the possibility of closing Pitt St. until Labour Day. Bergeron’s motion asked for the report to present Council with a range of options, including the possibility of closing Pitt St. from First St. to Third St., or just closing it from First St. to Second St.
Other options the motion asked administration to consider would be the relaxation of by-laws around outdoor patios, drop off spaces for parking, and simply reducing the flow for traffic while extending the width of sidewalk spaces.
“I put these motions forward to see what we can do as a council to help our economy,” Bergeron said at the Council meeting. “Social distancing will be with us for awhile. Restaurants are going to be affected at least until Labour Day.”
“I see it as it could be a positive thing,” said Hassan Rafiei of Schnitzels European Flavours. “I know people are saying they don’t want to walk, but if it is only two months during the summer, it might work.”
Some Councillors felt that the motion was trying to address a desire that did not exist however.
“I don’t think we need another report on this. If the BIA wants it, if the Chamber wants it, they’d be asking for it and they’re not,” said Councillor Claude McIntosh.
Greg Pietresma, Executive Director of the Cornwall Chamber of Commerce said that he would be meeting with the City of Cornwall administration and the Downtown Business Improvement Area (DBIA) to gauge interest and the feasibility of the idea.
“I’ve spoken with some merchants who feel this could be explored, and some who don’t,” said Pietresma. “Everyone in the DBIA will be given the option to respond.”
Randy Sauve, owner of Fantasy Realm, another business on downtown Pitt St. said that he did not feel the idea would make sense for him.
“I’m a destination store and I will only be re-opening when I can offer face to face customer service. No curbside and no deliveries,” said Sauve.
“I would never vote to close Pitt St. unless we thoroughly canvassed the DBIA, and the Chamber of Commerce, and the community,” said Mayor Bernadette Clement. “It is a one-way street and closing that has an impact on everything around it. That being said, I do appreciate that we are having these conversations.”
Councillor Bergeron’s other motions, also addressed supporting small businesses. One motion asked for a report on ending paid parking in Cornwall, and relaxing parking by-laws to make curbside pick-up easier. Another motion asked for a report on how Cornwall can better support at home businesses.
Bergeron also asked for a report on how Cornwall can better support backyard farming, city chicken coops, privately owned greenhouses and more.
Bergeron’s fifth and final motion asked for a report on how Councillors could participate remotely on in-camera (not-public) meetings.
All of the motions passed, except for the one on in-camera meetings. A report on the possible closure of Pitt St. is expected on May 25 with other reports expected to come back in June.