Parking plan runs out of gas

Harrison Hot Springs council divided on pay parking proposal

The pay parking model sputtered to a stop in Harrison Hot Springs Monday night.

A divided council voted to not adopt the GoPark proposal that would have brought 43 pay park machines to be installed through the highest traffic areas in the Village.

GoPark was invited by staff and council to create a proposal. They were selected by a staff committee which looked at six different companies. GoPark brought that presentation to council in early January, and the community was asked to weigh in through a poll conducted by the Village.  The majority of respondents (54 per cent) said they were not in favour of the proposal. Forty-four of the respondents were in favour, and two per cent did not answer that question.

In light of that feedback, staff presented council with a recommendation that the pay parking proposal not be approved after all.

Coun. Allan Jackson and Mayor Leo Facio were both hoping to see the pay parking model roll out, and voted against staff’s recommendation. Couns. Sonja Reyerse, Zoltan Kiss and John Buckley all spoke out against the proposal before voting in favour of staff recommendation.

Jackson was agitated and voiced his displeasure with the councillors who voted in line with staff.

“I wish the other councillors would have decided beforehand,” he said, suggesting they would have avoided going through the proposal process. “This was a waste of time.”

He said that without the revenue from pay parking, council can expect to see raised taxes.

But it was Mayor Leo Facio who has been pushing for pay parking, as he stated on Monday night.

“You know very well I’ve been chasing this since 1993,” Facio said. “And I think this time around, the company was very flexible with what they presented.”

He also stated that the Village is facing “a tight squeeze,” much like other communities.

“I’m sorry it hasn’t gone through,” Facio said.

A total of 267 responses were received from the poll, 232 from residents, 19 from property owners and 21 from businesses.

Staff said it would be “difficult to project pay parking revenue as there are many unknown factors and because conditions such as pay parking area, price and number of equipment can have a significant influence on the revenue.”

Based on the proposal, the gross revenues in the first year could have been $371,731, with $84,133 in expenses to run the program, making a net income of $287,598.

The councillors who spoke out against pay parking cited various reasons for shutting down the proposal.

“I do believe we have a parking problem in the Village,” said Kiss. “But I don’t think this is the way to fix it.”

Buckley said pay parking is “not a cut and dry solution” to traffic issues, and could create problems in residential areas.

“We don’t want to be ticketing and towing neighbours who come here for coffee and exercise,” he said. “It would have a negative effect and I believe accommodations would suffer.”

He also said the proposal was “unrealistic” because it is based on full parking occupancy throughout May to September, without accounting for rainy weekends, mid-week slumps or the slow shoulder season.

“I don’t want to be a running a deficit,” he said.

Reyerse noted that the issue has been a contentious one that has divided the community for some time, “pitting resident against resident.”

The mid-week is a struggle for businesses, she said. She also cited estimates that 30  per cent of people would stop coming to Harrison is there were pay parking, and broke that down to a $1.5 million loss to the local economy just to attain “an unknown, unproven revenue” from pay parking.

At the GoPark presentation in January, representative Justin Powell couldn’t come up with a break even number of parked cars over the given period of time, because there were too many variables.

Reyerse had asked him for a best and worst case scenario.

“We don’t know,” he responded. “I couldn’t tell you that.”

Each machine would have cost the Village $150 a month, for five months of the year. Operation of each machine would have cost an additional $75 per month. Rates would have been fifty cents for 15 minutes, a loonie for a half hour or $8 for a full six hour stay, with rates in effect from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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