White Rock won’t be granting businesses on Marine Drive a temporary pay-parking reprieve.
At Monday night’s meeting, council received a report from financial services director Sandra Kurylo recommending against the measure, which had been requested by the White Rock Business Improvement Association.
The BIA had asked at the beginning of this month whether parking on Marine Drive could be free through March and April, until the switch to summer parking rates on May 1. BIA president Ernie Klassen had asked at that time for a “brief but symbolic guest reprieve that will help frame the positive, forward-thinking efforts” of the Waterfront Task Force, a joint venture between the BIA, the South Surrey and White Rock Chamber of Commerce and the city.
But council members could not get past a $190,000 shortfall in parking revenues predicted by Kurylo for the remaining five-week period between March 28 and April 28 – even in spite of a further plea by Klassen and a failed motion from Coun. Bill Lawrence to have staff look at other ways of offsetting the costs of the initiative.
Kurylo told council the city does not currently have an “operating reserve with sufficient funding available.”
She added that, based on analysis of revenues from the last three years, March and April provide half of all beach parking revenues for the winter months, when a $1.50 per hour rate is in effect.
And she said that a suggestion that the first two hours of parking be declared free would be unworkable, as there is no way to achieve it with the technology of the current automated metering system.
“There would be nothing to stop visitors from initiating new parking transactions to provide them with free parking (for longer periods),” she said.
Asked by Coun. Helen Fathers how much the $190,000 would represent in terms of a tax increase for residents, Kurylo said it would amount to one per cent of the overall tax bill.
“I don’t know how we would be able to put $190,000 to fund free parking on the back of taxpayers,” Fathers said, while noting she supports and sympathizes with local businesses.
“It’s a hard thing for any council to do,” she said, adding that she believes that the current dilapidated state of Marine Drive is as much to do with discouraging visitors as pay parking.
“If the BIA is really interested in giving free parking, what about disbanding the BIA and have the $300,000 or so it receives each year going to businesses for free parking?” she said.
Coun. Lynne Sinclair pointed out that the BNSF railway lease and Translink levies on the parking land already amount to some $800,000 a year.
“A lot of people don’t appreciate that part of it,” she said. “(Pay parking) is not just a money grab.”
Lawrence, in moving that city staff take a further look at ways of supporting a period of free parking “so that it is revenue neutral for the city” – raised the possibility of boosting the summertime rate of $3 per hour by 25 or 50 cents.
“There is a solution here that can be had above and beyond this report,” he said, but his motion was subsequently voted down by council.
Klassen, in an earlier delegation, had told council that meetings with business owners, property owners and leasing agents had identified pay parking as the “greatest deterrence to business on the waterfront.”
Judging by emails received by the BIA in the wake of moves to improve business on the Marine Drive strip, “it was a much larger issue than anyone expected,” he said.
Klassen said that pay parking had originally been requested by merchants to ensure a “turnover” of parking spaces and to discourage all-day ‘campers’.
Council had subsequently seen the revenue potential of pay parking, he said, and now “the strategy has managed to convince guests not to come back.”
In a response later in the meeting, Mayor Wayne Baldwin said “Mr. Klassen was almost right” in his analysis of the history.
Pay parking was introduced primarily to curb rowdyism and cruising on the strip, Baldwin noted, after which it was viewed as a mechanism to keep people moving along from in front of businesses and, finally, as a revenue source.
“No business (on Marine Drive) puts forward a business plan on the basis that there is no pay parking,” he added.
“It’s not the only reason some businesses are failing. There are other things going on. Weather is a bigger factor than anything else and we can’t do anything about the weather.”