Parking fees along White Rock’s waterfront are back in the spotlight.
Monday night – after Peace Arch News’ press deadline – the executive director of the city’s Business Improvement Association was to urge the elimination of winter parking fees on Marine Drive.
Sherri Wilson Morissette told PAN last week that she would also propose a February-to-April “shoulder season,” in which the rate would be $1 per hour.
Unlike the current fee system – $1/hour Nov. 1 to Feb. 28, and $3/hour for the balance of the year – the suggestion would suit the actual peak season along the waterfront, Wilson Morissette explained.
“Summer is not nine months of the year,” she said. “Our peak season of tourists is not nine months of the year. It’s a very small, three-to-four-month window.”
Wilson Morissette met with Mayor Wayne Baldwin on the matter Wednesday.
Monday morning, Baldwin said the matter is not a simple one, and that he planned to ask staff for a report on the financial ramifications of changing the rates at the evening’s council meeting.
Revenue that would be lost from any reduction to or elimination of pay parking rates would have to be found elsewhere, he noted.
“Budget definitely has to be a factor, we can’t ignore that,” Baldwin said. “It would cost us money and may or may not result in some increased benefits to the businesses down there.”
The topic has long been a hot one in White Rock, with merchants arguing the rates – coupled with aggressive enforcement – hurt business.
Wilson Morissette said it doesn’t make sense to charge for parking at this time of year, when there are multiple shopping malls a short drive away where visitors can park for free. On any given day, those lots are “jam-packed,” she said.
“On the same day, you can go down to the waterfront and it’s empty. It might be $1 parking, but it’s empty.”
The situation is also threatening the area’s charm, Wilson Morissette said. She noted one boutique business owner that closed shop a couple months ago on East Beach cited parking as a key reason for their exit. That space is now slated for offices, she said.
“Now, we won’t even have an attractive destination. That’s slowly what most of the businesses on East Beach are turning into: they’re either fish-and-chip shops or oil exploration companies.”
Wilson Morissette said it’s time White Rock made “some quite grand gestures.”
“If they don’t start supporting the businesses down there… they’re going to lose them,” she said.
“We’re not going to stop until they move on this.”