Suspension of metered parking is on the agenda for the City of Vernon’s special meeting of council scheduled March 31, 2020. (Vernon Morning Star - file)

COVID-19: No tickets for parking downtown Vernon

Council considers free parking to encourage local shopping in ‘ghost town’ city centre hit by COVID-19

Taped to the Vernon Jubilee Hospital parking pay station hangs a sign saying waived until further notice, and the City of Vernon is looking to follow suit.

In a special meeting of council Tuesday, March 31, council decided to suspend enforcement of metered parking throughout the city for the time being.

The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce first brought this to council’s attention as a means to support local businesses.

Mayor Victor Cumming said he wants to see shoppers coming downtown, but he doesn’t want staff of the few businesses still open using those spots as staff parking.

Coun. Brian Quiring said he would love it if downtown streets were lined with employee vehicles right now, but that’s simply not the case as the COVID-19 crisis has resulted in layoffs and businesses temporarily closing.

“Downtown is a ghost town,” Coun. Quiring said. “When we’re back and the crisis is over, we’ll talk about whether (staff parking) is a problem, but right now, there is no staff downtown.”

Coun. Kari Gares echoed that.

“We just heard 70 per cent of downtown businesses are temporarily closed,” she said. “We don’t have a staff issue.”

Coun. Akbal Mund put forward the motion to suspend enforcement of metered parking noting it should be applied to the entire city, not just the downtown core. Enforcement, he said, should only occur if there are safety issues.

Several municipalities halted paid parking in the downtown cores to ensure businesses that are attempting to keep the doors open can attract shoppers to visit for curbside pickup or takeout purposes.

Kelowna, for instance, put a stop to its downtown on-street paid parking March 24 after noticing a 30 to 40 per cent dip in street parking usage. The free parking will be in place until the end of May, however motorists must respect the parking restrictions and time allotments as those remain in effect.

Meanwhile, hospitals across the province have lifted paid parking requirements effective April 1.

In the City of Vernon’s last regular meeting of council March 23, councillors Gares and Quiring were in favour of lifting the fees as the downtown core is struggling already and payments is another barrier for potential shoppers.

Coun. Gares insisted this gesture would be recognized by those affected by job loss or financial distress due to the effects of the novel coronavirus.

The issue will come before council at its meeting April 27 for further consideration.

READ MORE: Pay parking suspended at B.C. hospitals due to COVID-19

READ MORE: COVID-19: Kelowna nixes on-street paid parking downtown


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