EDITORIAL: Parkade case still to be made

EDITORIAL: Parkade case still to be made

The City of White Rock’s reaction to common-sense advice still leaves taxpayers in the dark

It’s surprising that White Rock’s civic leaders take issue with a call for the city to convince its taxpayers that a controversial waterfront parkade would be beneficial.

This is, after all, common sense.

What is more surprising is that the city has drawn attention to its own ineffective effort to just that.

Last week, Peace Arch News published an editorial opinion suggesting “the onus now is for civic officials to show taxpayers – their employers – how this is a good plan both financially and for their community’s betterment. They should explain in detail how a multi-million-dollar investment can pay for itself, and they should explain how they plan to increase tourist traffic year-round so that parking spots – ergo, businesses – don’t sit vacant.”

Two days later, the City of White Rock posted on its website a statement calling the opinion piece “misleading”:

“The editorial implies that the City did not provide the financial and/or general rationale for the parking structure. That is not correct. On Monday, July 24, 2017, at the Land Use and Planning Committee Meeting, Dan Bottrill, Chief Administration Officer delivered a presentation outlining how this parkade will pay for itself, how the calculations take into account parking visitors who are price sensitive, how differential parking rates will help increase tourists to the area with available parking capacity and more.”

Thankfully, the city included an online video (see below) of the presentation, so taxpayers can judge whether the city made its case.

Bottrill responded to a request from Helen Fathers for a business case. The city manager spoke for several minutes, but his conclusion that council should approve a five-storey structure was met with seeming incredulity from Fathers, who said it sounded like more a “sales pitch ” instead of “the numbers.”

Bottrill began again, referring repeatedly to an electronic spreadsheet – virtually unreadable online – that showed various scenarios for the parkade’s finances. For that the city manager received kudos from Mayor Wayne Baldwin, who noted the debt would be paid by developers’ community activity contributions (CACs) and that there’s “no reliance on tax dollars on this, that it’s not going to affect our taxes.”

But this is still not a business case, and developers’ funds aren’t free money to be spent without due consideration.

Simply put, publish all costs and projected incomes. Then compare to how much the money could earn, should it be invested.

This could well be the best use of funds for the city, but leaders must demonstrate the expertise to defend it.