PARRY SOUND – If you’re planning on parking downtown, you’d better bring some more change along with you.
Parking meter rates as well ask parking tickets are set up rise January 1, 2013.
North Star file photo
As of January 1, parking meter rates are set to rise from 50 cents an hour to 75 cents an hour. Additionally, those receiving parking tickets will pay $10 for early payment (versus $8) and $15 for late payment (versus $12). The cost of monthly parking permits will also jump, from $40 a month (plus HST) to $60 a month.
Council discussed and ultimately passed the bylaw at its Tuesday night meeting, with a handful of Downtown Business Association (DBA) members in the audience.
The increases are due to decreasing revenues and increasing expenditures for parking lot and meter maintenance, as well, the town is looking for ways to make or save funds ahead of 2013 budget deliberations, council explained.
“Parking, whether in lots, or at meters on the street, are a user-fee-based service,” wrote town CAO Rob Mens in a report to council. “Our current rates are below our neighbours and even at the proposed rates, are reasonable. Parking fee revenues directly – hanging baskets – or indirectly – repaving Gibson lot – are related reverted back to the parking service. Costs are increasing to the extent that the parking service will not pay for itself. The town needs the revenue. In other communities, particularly Huntsville, where meters were removed, parking enforcement is funded through taxes. That isn’t an option, or at least, not a too viable one in Parry Sound.”
Coun. Dan McCauley was the only council member opposing both increases.
“There was a deputation done by business owners (last month) in the downtown with a petition of names and they were not all merchants or members of the DBA,” said McCauley. “I think one has to remember it’s not only supporting a recommendation or a suggestion put forward by the DBA but also by patrons and merchants within the boundaries and outside the boundaries of the DBA.”
Coun. Keith Saulnier partially agreed with McCauley.
“I absolutely agree councillor McCauley, but who’s going to support a raise in fees?” said Saulnier. “Who’s going to sign their name, ‘yes I support raising fees?’ When I see petitions like that, of course I don’t want prices to go up. I always take those with a grain of salt, every single time.”
The last time meter rates jumped was in 2000.
“We’re basically subsidizing (parking), the town needs more money,” said Coun. Keith. “The way the structure is right now, 50 cents an hour, even if raised to 75 cents an hour, I have to say, what do you buy for 75 cents? “If we don’t raise the meters here, where is this money coming from?”
Downtown Business Association chair Lis McWalter says the organization is not pleased with council’s decision.
The DBA was hoping that we could collectively take a more holistic approach,” said McWalter. “We believe that our mutual strategies and decisions should have taken into account key considerations that are important in building viable parking strategies. These considerations include the need to create a friendly and inviting atmosphere; the need to attract more people into the downtown; the need to ensure an economically viable downtown; and progressive trend in Ontario towns to provide more free parking. This is not just about another quarter in the meter, its much more than that.”
McWalter said the projected dollars expected to come in with the increase won’t be significant, but the ramifications to the downtown will be.
“We understand that there has not been an increase in meter rates for approximately eight years and that the cost of snow removal has increased. However, lets not forget that our commercial taxes have increased over this period as well,” she said. Downtowns are the heart of a community. It is a fact, that Downtowns do not go away and a community either has to nurture and take care of them or then deal with the cost of decay in upcoming years. In the long run, it’s a no brainer.”
However, McWalter said she respects council’s decision and will continue to work to make the downtown an inviting, viable part of Parry Sound.