Seed money for neighbourhood block parties will be available for Harrison residents come spring.
At their regular meeting on Jan. 6, Harrison Hot Springs Village council voted to pass a staff recommendation to approve $2,500 in the 2020 Financial Plan for a block party pilot project starting in April.
Community services coordinator Rhonda Schell told council that as part of the pilot, eligible residents, non-profit organizations and community groups would be able to apply for up to $150 for food, activities, insurance, rentals, and other party costs.
“As well, the Village would provide street barricades if needed,” Schell wrote in her report to council. “Support would be on a first come, first serve basis with up to 15 events per year.”
She said the parties — organized by community members in a common space, such as a park or a street that is pre-approved for temporary road closure — are meant to connect residents and strengthen neighbourhoods.
The parties also help reduce crime rates by increasing residents’ ability to identify strangers, she said, as well as familiarize residents with their neighbourhoods in the event of an emergency, and stimulate local development projects, such as community clean teams, a block watch, or food and clothing drives.
As for rules, Schell said the parties would not be permitted to serve alcohol, violate bylaws, impede use of public space, such as the waterfront, or block access to emergency vehicles.
Applicants would also be required to obtain liability insurance and any required health permits if food is being served.
“How much insurance will we be asking for?” asked councillor Ray Hooper.
Schell said the Municipal Insurance Association of British Columbia has a program that will allow residents to apply for insurance online, starting at around $10 for a party of 50 people with no alcohol, up to $30 for a larger party.
“I did not see any deductible required,” she said.
Councillor Michie Vidal then raised the issue of parking if they barricade off streets to allow for parties.
“Parking is at an absolute premium here during the summer,” Vidal said. “I do support this as a pilot project, but I think it’s important that during the pilot time that we do manage it.
“I don’t want to see things get out of hand and have to either constantly rely on our bylaw officer or perhaps even RCMP.”
Mayor Leo Facio said he thought the parties were a brilliant idea.
“I think the whole idea is more of a neighbourhood getting together … and it’s worked successfully on my street,” Facio said. “It’s a pilot project, let’s give it shot.”
Councillor Gerry Palmer said he was concerned that up to $150 was not much money to host a block party, but “it doesn’t stop people from putting in money as well.”
“That helps develop community as well, people are all pitching in,” she said, adding that if the pilot is successful, staff will look into increasing the budget.
Council then passed the recommendation with Hooper opposed.