Council leaves Pitt St. alone

Image of Nick Seebruch
By Nick Seebruch
Council leaves Pitt St. alone

CORNWALL, Ontario – After receiving a report from administration at their meeting on May 25 on options to open Pitt St. solely for pedestrians, Council chose to leave Pitt St. as it is.

At their meeting on May 11, Councillor Eric Bergeron had asked for a report on possible restricting Pitt St. to pedestrian traffic only to give restaurants a chance to expand onto the street, citing the economic hardships businesses were facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Cornwall Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Business Improvement Association (DBIA) and Mayor Bernadette Clement conducted surveys and sought feedback from possibly affected businesses in the area in question.

The Chamber surveyed 41 businesses, 12 per cent said that they would be in favour of closing Pitt St. between First and Third streets, 20 per cent were in favour of closing the street between First and Second streets and 14 per cent said they were in favour of reducing traffic lanes.

“The business leaders in those meetings know we as councillors are trying to help them, and some of their suggestions in that report,” said Councillor Eric Bergeron. Bergeron went on to implore Council that more needed to be done to support businesses as they recover from the pandemic.

Bergeron pointed to a survey conducted by the Cornwall Economic Development Department in which 15 per cent of the responding businesses stated that they would likely have to close in the coming months.

“We are in an economic emergency right now, and this report is about mitigating that. There is no Dr. Paul for the economy,” said Bergeron, referring to the Eastern Ontario Health Unit’s Chief Medical Officer of Health who is handling the regional response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Speed and not perfection is the mantra. Asking for reports this way we get feedback.”

“Some businesses however we talking about closing Pitt St., south of Second St. There might be some compromise on that block,” Bergeron said, explaining he did not want to get in the way of any grassroots business initiative and would not be making any further motion about modifying traffic regulations on the street.

Instead, Bergeron urged the Mayor to create an economic recovery task force.

Council also considered a modification of their encroachment rules onto Pitt St. Since 2016, Cornwall has had a policy allowing businesses to encroach onto the sidewalk, under very specific rules.

“I know there is some concern that this system is somewhat convoluted. I think there are some good reasons why so many departments are involved,” Cornwall General Manager of Planning, Development and Recreation Mark Boileau said. “While I would agree we would want to simplify the process, but we can’t simplify it to the point where it isn’t following regulations from the police, or transit department. We have to be very careful when we are putting the public on the right of way.”

Boileau stated that there was also a $370 one-time fee that came with the application. He said that since 2016, no one has submitted such an application.

Councillor Eric Bergeron also moved that parking in the downtown also be made free for the time being, but Boileau explained that parking fees already were not being enforced during the pandemic for the time being.

Mayor Bernadette Clement said that she would be focusing on better communicating the free parking to the public and businesses.

Mayor Clement explained that other Eastern Ontario municipalities were also considering options to support their businesses, including making their downtowns more pedestrian friendly.

“In my conversations with business owners, there is a real difference between how restaurants feel about it and how stores feel about it,” said Mayor Clement. “I know other cities in Eastern Ontario, including Kingston are looking at temporary lane reduction or temporary closure of their downtown particularly for restaurants.”

Share this article