Town to further study parking limitations in downtown core

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Town council has asked administration to return with a report so the issue of parking and time limits to do so are studied further.

The motion was passed during Monday night’s meeting after members of the business community appeared to air their concerns over the recent increase of enforcement of the town’s two-hour parking limit bylaw. Gay-Anne Ledingham and Steve Done voiced their concerns as well as the concerns of other businesses in the downtown core, noting parking is a “growing concern to the business community.”

“With the growing tourism – which is up 171% since 2009 – along with a population increase of 0.3% from 2001 to 2006, the two-hour limit is in need of a better solution to what already in place,” said Done. “In a recent push to have this limit enforced, it became apparent that this limit along with the fact there is limited number of spaces available does not suit the current needs of the businesses in the downtown core.”

Extending the parking time limit from two to four hours has been floated, said Done, but that was found not to be the best solution either.

“One major concern for most people is the use of the downtown parking spots for employee parking. There is a vast majority of businesses that do not have any parking with their locations and therefore their employees are forced to find parking in the immediate area,” said Done. “There are other businesses, like the banks, that employee a large number of employees and have parking available and yet employees are not allowed to park in the parking that is available with the businesses location.”

Done told council “there is a definite need for businesses to know where employees can park, what parking is not limited to two hours” but other needs are necessary to meet that demand, such as a parking lot where employees can park and pay so that it removes and free up parking for the client and futures economic business increase.

“By having a lot available and requiring payment, whether through pay as you go or monthly passes, this would bring in the dollars to help cover the cost of this lot. There are several spots available that could be bought or leased to meet this demand,” he said.

The purchasing of monthly passes for people to display in their vehicle windows while parked downtown will allow additional revenue for the town, he continued.

“One of the ways to help in this situation is to provide an option for businesses to purchase a monthly pass that they may use for their clients to display in the window of their vehicle so that when the bylaw officer comes by, they will see this vehicle is at a local business and that they will be over the two-hour limit,” he stated. “This will do two things, it will bring in monies for the town and not in a negative way such as a ticket. It will keep the current two-hour limit imposed and provide an option for businesses to meet the demands for their clients on the services they offer.”

Done stated the business community is willing to work withe town to find the “best solutions to make Amherstburg attractive and easily accessible for all. He acknowledged these suggestions may not satisfy all businesses but “it is a start and something to build on and grow with.”

A meeting was held amongst business owners May 7 and the business community would be open to further meetings with the town.

“We are not here to fight nor are we working for council to do all the work and find that solution. What we are looking for is, for the people and business of this town to be heard and for council to listen to these concerns and to set up a meeting with us and council to discuss this situation further. We would like everyone to work together to foster the growth and pride in making Amherstburg the place to live and visit,” said Done. “There are many other communities big and small that are faced with the challenge of keeping their downtown core alive and doing well. There are many communities faced with the challenge of providing parking for the growing community. We want Amherstburg to rise up and be a model for other communities to look to for answers they may face.”

“This council wants to work with the folks downtown,” said Councillor Bob Pillon.

“We have to work together to find positive solutions,” added Councillor John Sutton.

Sutton said previous councils have created parking lots in the past to create spaces but that didn’t go over well with some people, noting there is an “illusion” that the town has an excess of parking.

Making the town more “pedestrian friendly” and also looking into installing more bicycle racks was also suggested by Sutton, a point which Councillor Carolyn Davies agreed with.

Davies added that not having enough parking is “a good, healthy sign” for the town. She hoped for further meetings with the delegation as well as the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce.

Councillor Diane Pouget said the town had to take action on the two-hour limit, as she said people were abusing it.

“We couldn’t let that go,” said Pouget, adding “a large number of people” as well as some business owners were grateful when enforcement was stepped up.

Pouget did support Pillon’s motion but asked that the Richmond Terrace expansion be factored in as well as how many tourists come downtown by bus or park elsewhere.

Police chief Tim Berthiaume said parking has been enforced in the past but it has gotten more attention this year. He said officers have no idea which cars belong to whom.

“We note where the valve stems are and two hours later we write tickets,” said Berthiaume.

Deputy Mayor Ron Sutherland said he has talked to a number of businesses and many do not know of the municipal lot in the Heritage Square plaza. Ledingham indicated that doesn’t give much relief.

“There are only 29 spots,” she said. “We need 144.”

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