Pay parking will be coming to Harrison Hot Springs on May 15 this year, but the future of parking as a whole will also be coming to the council table in the form of a new master plan.
During Harrison’s Committee of the Whole meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 20, council decided to move the start of the pay parking season to May 15, rather than the usual June 15. The parking season will end on Sept. 15, as it has in the past.
Harrison started its pay parking program in 2016 to help offset the maintenance of waterfront areas in the village, which are predominately used by tourists during the summer. Last year, the village brought in just over $240,000 in revenue which was used to maintain the beach areas.
(Although this amount was significantly higher than normal, the village also saw higher maintenance costs with increased garbage pick up and washroom cleanings due to the number of tourists.)
In addition, council voted to lengthen the amount of time someone could park in the new short-term parking in place on Hot Springs Road, St. Alice Street and the west side of Esplanade Avenue.
Last year, council voted to set up short-term parking spaces on those streets, with an escalating rate for up to three hours, to encourage turnover in some of the village’s busiest parking spaces.
According to community services manager Rhonda Schell, some businesses wanted longer parking options in the short term parking. As a result, staff recommended that the short-term parking be increased to a maximum of four hours.
The rate would still increase each hour: $2 for the first hour, $3 for the second, $4 for the third hour and $5 for the fourth hour, to a maximum of $14 a day. All other pay parking spots are still available all day at $3 an hour, for a maximum rate of $12 a day.
“It gives someone a distinct disincentive for someone to try and sit there for three or four hours, and that’s good for our businesses,” Counc. Gerry Palmer said.
Council also approved new pay parking metres, which will see people pay based on their licence plate number, rather than needing to display the ticket on the dash. Although these new metres will cost an extra $10,000 to operate over the course of the year, the hope is that they will make it easier for patrons to use.
It will also help solve some of the confusion around how many vehicles can be in one stall, as was demonstrated when a group of five motorcyclists parked in a single stall and only paid for one parking pass.
As well as these immediate changes, the village will also begin looking at a master plan for parking in the community.
Counc. Samantha Piper put forward the idea of a parking master plan, noting that “the parking topic in any municipality is always a very passionate one.”
“I think it’s due time that the process gets moving, so we get away from knee jerk reaction,” she said.
Her hope was the plan would include public consultation and investigation into all parking options in Harrison Hot Springs, including residential areas.
Currently many residential areas are used by tourists willing to walk down to the beach. Counc. Ray Hooper wanted to exclude non-residents from parking in residential areas “to preserve the integrity and well-being of residents.”
Palmer said that taking those spots away from tourists would have a major impact on parking options in the village.
“If we were to make it resident parking in residential areas, that’s going to take a lot of parking spots away,” he said. “I know my house has a car parked in front of it pretty much right through the summer, certainly all through the weekends, and I don’t know that I’m unique in that.”
Palmer also suggested staff look into motorcycle parking options in the village, and parking for bikes as part of the overall plan.
Counc. Michie Vidal asked staff to include discussions with the District of Kent in with the consultation for the parking master plan, as vehicles are often parked on Kent’s portion of Rockwell Drive to access Rendall Park.
Hooper particularly wanted staff to look at the possibility of residents-only parking near Esplanade Avenue, with the addition of residents-only handicapped spots, an issue he said he had brought up in the past.
“There are a number of disabled residents that have trouble getting down here to use the restaurants, so I would like to see an area included,” he said.
He also noted difficulties with boaters finding parking spaces for their vehicles, and suggested that council look at the creation of a parking structure.
CAO Madeline McDonald noted that there is currently no way for bylaw enforcement officers to police resident-only spaces, although Hooper did suggest the implementation of a decal for residents. She did not address the parking structure, although Mayor Leo Facio said it would only be used for part of the year, and the rest would be “a total loss.”
Mayor Leo Facio, other than his comments on the parking garage and potential impacts for residents based on purchasing land, only said that the master plan will be ” an interesting discussion.”
“We are a resort community, and the boat launch is a big draw for the community and the use of the lake,” he said. “It’ll be an interesting discussion, I’m looking forward to it.”
Parking has already been an “interesting discussion” in Harrison, at least indirectly, as residents have provided plenty of asked and un-asked comments on the vacant land beside the village office. Currently, that land is used as overflow parking in the summer, and Palmer noted that the master plan could look at the possibility of a cost for using that area as parking.
The budget for the master plan will be coming back before council before the plan moves forward. Staff suggested the master plan should be funded out of the surplus funds from pay parking revenue in 2021, as the extension of the pay parking season will bring in an additional $49,000 in net revenue.