March 25, 2014 - 10:45 AM
VERNON - How much you pay to park downtown could soon depend on where you park.
City council raised the price to park at a meter last year from 50 cents to $1 an hour based on recommendations from a consultant, but an outcry from some members of the business community have forced a second look at the price of parking.
Some merchants believe the higher price for parking has customers driving to malls where parking is free.
At the request of Coun. Juliette Cunningham, who owns a downtown business, city staff was asked to present alternatives to the one size fits all parking price.
The staff report provided council with three options: leave the rate at a $1 per hour or choose one of two variable parking rate alternatives.
The city's chief administrative office Will Pearce expressed his concern that reducing parking rates would have a negative impact on the 2014 budget. He said the loss of revenue will have to be supplimented by a tax increase.
In one alternative, the city would charge the higher rate at parking metres on 30 and 31 Avenues downtown between Safeway and the library, and along four blocks from 29 to 34 Streets, plus two blocks of Coldstream Avenue. Parking would be 50 cents an hour in the rest of the downtown core. This plan would cost the city about $107,000 in lost revenue.
In the second alterntive, the city would charge the higher parking rate at fewer meters. It would be $1 an hour at the meters on the same stretch 30 Avenue, but only two blocks for 29 to 34 Streets. It would mean the loss of $190,000 in revenue.
Pearce couldn't stress enough that the estimated revenue losses are very conservative and will likely be higher.
"I was under the impression that we were raising parking rates so we can flush people through the downtown," Coun. Brian Quiring said. "We were going to purchase new parking meters and we didn't do that."
"I think we made a mistake and we are negatively impacting the downtown."
Coun. Mary Jo O'Keefe agreed the goal of raising the parking meter rates was to keep traffic moving downtown.
"In these economic times it's tough for business," Coun. Cunningham said. "We should be working hard to retain businesses and drawing new ones in."
After a lengthy debate, council decided not to decide.
Instead they sent the matter back to the finance department to come up with a new plan that would incorporate suggestions made by several councillors about which streets downtown should have the higher parking rate and which ones should have the lower rate.
Staff will report back at council's next regular meeting on April 7.
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