Newmarket council today decided to move forward with establishing a new policy for rooftop patios at commercial businesses such as restaurants and bars.
Commercial rooftop patios are currently defined in a town bylaw, but they are not permitted to exist anywhere.
The motion was brought forward by Councillor Bob Kwapis after at least one downtown Newmarket business owner and a few others around town expressed a desire to add a rooftop patio to their establishments.
Any new rules and regulations would apply only to commercial businesses, not residential rooftop patios.
The George restaurant on Main Street is ready to build a rooftop patio, Kwapis told NewmarketToday.
“They (rooftop patios) are becoming a trendy request,” said Kwapis. “The town currently views each rooftop patio as a one-off application that needs to go through a rezoning process and other associated processes, which can be lengthy and costly, sometimes prohibiting a small business from building a rooftop patio before they actually start construction.”
“Pre-set guidelines will make the rooftop patio application process clear, standardized and ultimately less expensive for the applicant,” he added. “I am hopeful that this rooftop patio motion I tabled will ultimately enhance patrons’ experience, thus attracting more visitors to Main Street and to our town.”
A public meeting later this fall or in early 2021 will kick off the process to solicit community feedback, with staff recommendations coming forward to council for approval in advance of the 2021 patio season, acting director of planning and building services Jason Unger said.
Commercial rooftop patios were on the radar of town planning staff about two years ago, but standards were not developed at that time.
“I think the timing is right,” Unger said of developing clear guidelines and an application process. “We think it’s an emerging issue and a desirable thing to have, not only downtown but across town.”
As it stands, an interested business owner would have to apply to the town to build a rooftop patio through traditional zoning channels that could include seeking an amendment to the town’s official plan.
“It’s a high level of cost for one person to investigate the possibility when a more logical route is to have the town investigate, consult with the public, decide to what degree we want to do this and under what conditions, and then put something in place,” Mayor John Taylor said.