Some changes will be coming to downtown Agassiz’s parking situation.
On Wednesday (Oct. 16), Kent council voted to make some changes to the kinds of parking that are available on Pioneer and Cheam Avenues. Most significantly, the district will be adding three-hour parking limits to the parallel parking stalls in front of Pioneer Park, although it will also be changing some of the parking in its lots to a two-hour time limit.
Mayor Sylvia Pranger, concerns were brought up by local business owners about the availability of customer parking in downtown Agassiz last spring. At an open house held for the businesses by the district, they asked for more two-hour parking, to help increase turnover of vehicles.
This was around the same time that the District of Kent began looking at parking reductions, that would allow new businesses and developments to provide fewer parking spaces. This reduction was approved in July of this year.
In response to the business owner’s concerns, council directed staff to take an inventory of the district’s parking signs, stalls and lots, and see where improvements could be made.
In total, the Agassiz townsite has 94 on street parking stalls, including 64 two-hour stalls and two 15-minute parking stalls. Between the district’s nine parking lots, there are 204 stalls.
There are only 16 accessible parking stalls, two of which are on-street parking, and one tour bus stall that council is considering turning into an RV parking stall.
To help improve the use of the nearly 300 parking spaces, staff recommended that the entire north side of Pioneer Avenue adjacent to Pioneer Park be turned into three-hour parking.
“The idea is to put something where it provides another option for members of the public, where if they want to stay for longer than two hours — perhaps they want to spend a bit of time at the park and then do some shopping,” director of development services Darcey Kohuch said.
“The challenge with not having regulated parking there is you still have workers, employees and apartment dwellers taking up those spaces where the idea is to make them available for the shopping public.”
Staff also recommended that a small section of unregulated parking in front of the Blue Dandelion and Len Daviduik’s Tax Services be turned into two-hour parking, as well as half of the parking lot adjacent to Cabin Fever Junction.
The two- and three-hour parking signs would say that the time limits are only in effect between Monday and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
No changes are proposed to Cheam Avenue in downtown Agassiz, as it is a provincial highway and would require major design changes to make more formalized parking possible.
“Because of the various activities on there with loading and parking on the outside lanes, (and) lots of driveway access, it’s a pretty busy corridor,” Kohuch said.
On Pioneer Avenue and Cheam Avenue on the west side of Highway 9, there are no delineated parking stalls and none are suggested, as the roads are quite narrow. However, staff will move the centre lines slightly to the north on both roads to better accommodate the parallel parking on the south side of both streets.
More public parking signs were also recommended for the district’s parking lots, to make it clear they are available for the public to use.
In council, the main concerns for the changes centred around the number of signs that would have to be installed in front of Pioneer Park. The district would need to install eight signs, one on each side of the crosswalks to indicate the start and stop of the three-hour zone and one on each end of Pioneer Avenue.
“Adding eight signs there, there’s a little bit of sign pollution going on,” councillor Duane Post said. “Signs are always ugly.”
Although council tried to come up with other options for putting in signs, including painting the curbs to identify which sections were for three-hour parking, none were considered feasible.
Councillor Kerstin Schwichtenberg also asked if it was possible to add more accessible parking, possibly along the street, but was told that the streets weren’t wide enough to accommodate the space needed to accessible on-street parking.
The installation of the signs will be funded by the public works operational budget, and will likely be completed sometime this winter.
Staff said they will do a soft start to enforcement for the new zones, focusing on education rather than penalties during the initial months.
“We could always start out with just chalking tires and giving little warnings, more of an educational period for a while, and just see what the reaction is,” Kohuch said. “Just start monitoring it and seeing it, and change some behaviours out there.”