As a new business owner, I am very concerned by the thought of pay parking being introduced in Harrison Hot Springs. Harrison Hot Springs is an awesome location but the reality is that our summer season is very short and given a little rain it can be difficult to stay profitable. Not only that but in B.C., tourists have a lot of great alternatives that provide lakes, mountains and nature, right now one of Harrison’s only competitive advantages is the fact that we do not charge for parking.
Talking to a lot of tourists as well as clients from Agassiz since starting, what I hear is that people will stop coming or go elsewhere for their lunch, coffee, walking break if Harrison brings in pay parking. I know my business cannot afford that and so I really hope we can keep pay parking out of Harrison.
It seems some residents think pay parking will solve the Villages problems by generating revenue to pay for beach cleanup while at the same time limiting the number of tourists. From where I sit, it seems only reasonable that since businesses pay a tax rate three times higher than residents for fewer municipal services that some of our business tax dollars go to beach cleanup. I think these same residents forget that Harrison was a resort destination before it ever became a residential community. The reason that a small community like Harrison generates nearly half of its property taxes from businesses is the fact that we have a small residential base and our businesses attract enough tourists to keep the business community alive. Drive away the tourists, the business community will shrink and residential taxes will go up.
Looking at other communities that have implemented pay parking, our community is much different. i.e. White Rock only generates five per cent of its tax base from business and also leases the entire water frontage from CN rail for $350,000.00 a year! It is mandatory for residents to pay for a yearly parking decal no matter where they live in White Rock. It is important to remember that the White Rock beach strip is not all pay parking, travel down the road a couple hundred meters and you will find tons of free parking spaces. White Rock also has a population of 16,000 residents which helps businesses stay healthy in the off season and winter months.
We are not Whistler and we should not be compared to Whistler. They are in the top five tourist destinations in North America and were currently home to the Winter Olympics.
In Whistler pay parking was so controversial the Mayor and Council who introduced and supported it were let go, and a number of the pay parking stalls were removed.
Similarly we should not be compared to Cultus Lake who implemented pay parking at the beach and not where the stores are located. Three blocks back where the stores are located you will find parking lots that do not charge for parking in order for the business community to sustain themselves and thrive.
Perhaps we should consider cutting our Village budget and make the necessary cutbacks to make it work with the revenue we currently generate.
People need to think this through before jumping on the pay parking bandwagon. Pay parking = fewer tourists = fewer businesses = higher residential taxes.