It was encouraging to see that recently defeated Councillor Bob Perry has not lost his voice as a result of his “retirement”. It would have been more encouraging, with all his new free time, if he had undertaken some research and obtained a few facts before bringing pen to paper. Looking out his window and noting the parking chaos on one of the handful of days in the year when there are more cars then parking spots in the Village core is hardly well grounded reasoning for calling once again for pay parking. To then suggest that the Chamber of Commerce, a volunteer organization that has no role with Council, no direct involvement with Council and no official representative on any committee, is running the show at the Village office, is simply laughable. We wish it were true but if Mr. Perry had bothered to stay on top of Village RFP’s he would have seen that an RFP for Pay Parking Services was issued by the Village last week. However it’s not Mr. Perry’s illusion regarding the Chambers nonexistent power and influence that we would like to address but the notion that Pay Parking is the solution to Harrison’s taxation woes.
Pay parking can be a useful revenue generator when your community has consistently more visitors than parking spots and there are few alternatives for the tourism product you are offering. This is not the case in Harrison. In the first place Harrison has a two month busy season where most businesses make the bulk of their money. Within that short summer season there are a handful of Sundays and the odd Saturday when parking is an issue. In a 2008 survey that the Chamber conducted with a sample of 300 Visitors, 30% said they would stop coming to Harrison if it introduced pay parking, this is consistent with the decrease in visitors to our provincial parks by day users when the provincial government introduced pay parking some years back. They have now seen the light and removed the parking fees. A 30% decrease in day-tripper visitors would put many Harrison businesses, which are already struggling in a difficult economy, over the edge.
Mr. Perry states that it is not right that taxpayers foot the bill for these visiting tourists. He forgets that 40% of the property taxes in Harrison come from businesses that are all too happy to have and pay for these revenue generating tourists. We would point out that since businesses pay more than three times the tax rate of residents for less service it is only right that some portion of the Villages tax dollars go to support the business community.
Lastly, Mr. Perry as a previous Councillor knows, the beach infrastructure that our tourists and residents alike enjoy and use has been enhanced and maintained in recent years not by property taxes but by the Resort Municipality Infrastructure money that Harrison receives every year because it is a resort destination. Without the tourism businesses and visitors they bring this money would not be available and these beautiful additions would not be in place.
Clearly with the Village issuing an RFP soliciting Pay Parking proposals they are seriously looking at pay parking once again but the Agassiz Harrison Chamber of Commerce position remains that this would be bad for tourism, bad for business and ultimately bad for Harrison Hot Springs.
The Directors of the Agassiz Harrison Chamber of Commerce