Maryanne Firth / The Tribune
It looks like the end of the road for paid parking in downtown Port Colborne — for now, anyway.
On Monday night, city council approved, after much debate, moving forward with a one-year trial period for two-hour free parking in the downtown core.
Armed with a petition signed by more than 50 business representatives, the downtown business improvement area board brought the issue forward in hopes of saying goodbye to the lakeside city’s parking meters. Several BIA members made presentations Monday in support of free parking and one in opposition.
Funds collected from parking meters and parking fines pay for enforcement throughout the city.
In 2011, Port Colborne received $21,430 in meter revenue and $8,750 in parking fines.
Enforcement costs the city $21,840 annually.
To help cover the cost of lost revenue during the trial, it was suggested retailers could advertise on bags covering the meter heads. It was also suggested the city raise its fines for parking infractions. If council chooses to increase fines, an application must be submitted to the chief justice of the Ontario Court of Justice. There’s no guarantee it will be approved.
It is yet to be determined whether it will be more cost-effective to bag meters or remove the heads and place them in storage. Concerns were raised over vandalism and deterioration of the meters should they be left in place.
Enforcement of the two-hour limit will be done on a complaint-only basis.
The business community is aware it will have to “self-police” the issue, said BIA board member Gary Talosi.
Signage will also be created to assist with enforcement.
Having the two-hour parking policed by downtown merchants “could be confrontational” and, in turn, “create ill will,” said Ward 2 Coun. Angie Desmarais, who was opposed to the idea.
After taking her own survey of downtown shoppers and speaking to about 60 people, Desmarais said it seemed no one felt deterred by the cost of parking.
Her Ward 2 counterpart Yvon Doucet felt strongly that councillors should act in support of what the BIA community has clearly said it wants — free parking downtown.
“We can’t ignore 50 businesses,” he said.
Ward 1 Coun. Bill Steele believes the BIA wants to see free parking downtown permanently, not on a trial basis. With several trials having been conducted in the city over the past 10 years, he put forward a motion to see free parking implemented permanently. It was defeated.
A report containing details on cost, the BIA’s involvement and best practice for implementation is expected to come before council in late September.
The motion: That Port Colborne move forward with two-hour free parking on a one-year trial basis and that city staff meet with the downtown business improvement area board to discuss and report back to council cost and implementation methods.
In favour: Ward 3 Coun. Bea Kenny, Ward 4 Couns. Ron Bodner and Barbara Butters, and Mayor Vance Badawey.
Opposed: Ward 1 Coun. Bill Steele, Ward 2 Couns. Angie Desmarais and Yvon Doucet.
Absent: Ward 1 Coun. Dave Elliott and Ward 3 Coun. Frank Danch.