The most recent appeal to make parking fees along White Rock’s waterfront more business- and visitor-friendly received mixed response from council last week.
BIA executive director Sherri Wilson Morissette and Marine Drive business owner Maureen Coroliuc appeared Dec. 19 as a delegation to ask for changes to the system.
The pair cited the year-round fees and a shortage of parking spaces during the peak summer season as a central factor in the continuing decline of the area’s business district, and asked council to re-open a dialogue with an aim to improving the situation.
Among suggestions was that of offering free winter parking.
But the idea of revisiting the issue did not appeal to at least two councillors.
“Once and for all… I would like to see this answer on parking,” a clearly exasperated Coun. Mary-Wade Anderson said.
“We simply can’t abandon everything we put into this parking issue – so somebody can have 10, 15 minutes on TV.”
Coun. Al Campbell expressed concern about the potential financial impact.
“We take directions and listen very clearly when there’s money involved,” he said. “If we don’t have that money, we’re talking about a one or two per cent increase to our taxes.”
Pay parking along Marine Drive has long been a source of contention amongst merchants and visitors alike. Consistently, complaints centre on the fees being too high and the enforcement being too aggressive, with the combination driving visitors, shoppers – and businesses – away.
Coun. Larry Robinson suggested “a different way of enforcement” may help the matter; perhaps by way of a grace period before fines are issued.
The city currently charges $1 per hour for parking from Nov. 1 to Feb. 28 (10 a.m. to 8 p.m.), and $3 per hour for the balance of the year (10 a.m. to 2 a.m.)
In addition to suggesting free parking Monday to Thursday from Oct. 1 to Jan. 31, Wilson Morissette proposed that the city offer a “shoulder season” rate of $1/hour from Feb. 1 to April 30. Year-round, the charges should only be in effect from dawn to dusk, she added.
To offset revenue losses, she suggested the city investigate offering a non-resident parking decal, as well as using the back of tickets for paid advertisements.
In appealing to council, Wilson Morissette noted the BIA has the support of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
A Dec. 16 letter to Mayor Wayne Baldwin from the federation’s Nicole Nash and Laura Jones points out the strip’s small businesses are competing with shopping centres that don’t charge for parking year-round – “a consumer will take this into account when deciding where to shop.”
The letter – noting merchants and visitors alike appreciated the free winter parking offered in 2008 and 2009 – asks council to approve the changes suggested by the BIA, “as we believe they will help the small businesses along the waterfront and will demonstrate the city’s commitment to its small-business community.”
Baldwin asked staff to prepare a report on the implications of the proposed changes. He also promised to consider re-establishing the Mayor’s Task Force on Waterfront Parking, which Wilson Morissette also requested.
That group was first formed in 2008 with an aim to finding short- and long-term parking solutions on the waterfront. It comprised representatives of the Business Improvement Association, council and city staff. Wilson Morissette suggested a return of the opportunity could go a long way towards finding a balance that works for everyone.
“It’s a constant issue. We need to sit down and find something that benefits everyone,” she said.