PARRY SOUND – Armed with more than 600 signatures collected in just over two weeks, the Downtown Business Association (DBA) appealed to council not to increase the meter rates Tuesday night.
Businesses fight proposed parking meter hike.
A bylaw proposing a 25-cent an hour increase comes before council Tuesday, Sept. 4.
Cody Storm Cooper/Beacon Star
However, a proposed bylaw was postponed to allow staff to meet with DBA members, including its chair Lis McWalter, to discuss alternatives to increasing the rate from 50 cents and hour to 75 cents an hour.
Supported by other downtown business owners in the audience, Jeans Unlimited owner Sue Sullivan and The Town Trading Post owner Karen Hobson presented council with the petition.
“This petition has collected over 600 signatures as well as a few ad-libs at the bottom of the pages that I would like to read to you,” said Hobson. “One of the petition signers said, ‘How many other ways can you come up with to drive customers away from the downtown?’ And ‘What were you thinking, or were you thinking?’ We would like to use this petition and add an objection to that, of the one you should have already received from the Downtown Business Association board. We believe that controlled parking in the downtown is necessary, due to our limited parking facilities in the area, but we feel that raising the rates at this time would be detrimental to our businesses. We do realize economic times are tough, but even a little thing like raising the parking rates could tip the scales against us.”
Hobson added that downtown businesses are also forced to compete with big box stores that, unlike them, have complimentary parking.
“As well, you have to factor in the competition that we have from nearby communities like Huntsville who have removed their parking meters. We don’t want to hear anyone say that they’ve had it with downtown Parry Sound, because they have to pay a higher rate to park,” she said. “We as businesses can’t afford to lose customers over an issue like this, as small as it may be to some, not to us. We ask that you strongly consider our opinion and the petition and leave the meter rates at their current rate.”
McWalter suggested to council that the DBA should meet with town staff and come up with alternatives to raising meter rates.
“We’ve heard more and more complaints this summer from visitors, cottagers and locals of the unfriendliness of the downtown due to what seems to be an increase in the number of parking tickets,” McWalter said. “Rather than stay in the downtown, we have visitors that rush to the banks or the liquor store and then leave the downtown. The DBA survey that we conducted in 2010 and 2011 revealed that parking was one of the most controversial and negative aspects of our downtown. The trend in small- and medium-sized towns is to eliminate meters in order to promote the downtown and help the businesses stave off the impact of the big box stores that are becoming more prominent.”
McWalter requested the town postpone the bylaw, until the DBA and town staff could sit down together; council agreed.
“This issue has been sort of dragging on and I agree with postponing it tonight, but there needs to be a time frame established and adhered to so this can’t go on indefinitely,” said Coun. Paul Borneman. “That it will be back on (October) 2, we’re going to have something before us that allows us to move forward one way or another.”
The bylaw decision was postponed to the October 2 council meeting.