Higher parking fees drive concerns

City of Vernon hiking parking fees, downtown merchants worried about business

Some merchants believe customers could be chased out of downtown Vernon.

The City of Vernon has hiked rates for parking meters, the parkade and parking lots as part of the 2013 budget.

“I have concerns about how it will impact commerce,” said Ruth Hoyte, Downtown Vernon Association president.

Hoyte says the increases may be enough, in some cases, to divert residents to other parts of Vernon to shop instead of going downtown.

Parking meter rates will climb from 50 cents to $1 an hour in late February or early March.

Monthly flat parking lot fees will increase from $35 and $21, in some cases, to $65 a month.

At the parkade, monthly parking will go from $55 to $65 a month except for roof-top parking which will go from $25 to $35 a month.

Parking tickets paid within 14 days will jump from $5 to $10.

Hoyte suggests the city is missing the big picture.

“It (increases) doesn’t resolve the issue of occupancy on 30th Avenue,” she said.

“Nor have they dealt with the elimination of parking stalls.”

All of the parking rate increases combined will create an additional $576,360 in revenue for the city.

“Where does that additional money go?” said Hoyte.

“It doesn’t go into improving parking. It appears to go into general revenue.”

Officials with the city are defending their actions.

“We want downtown to be vibrant but the rates haven’t been increased for 10 years in some cases and this brings them in line with other communities,” said Mayor Rob Sawatzky.

Sawatzky says higher parking rates could encourage more people to take transit and the additional revenue will assist with the city’s financial challenges, including infrastructure.

“A major part of the operating budget is the service we provide for automobiles, whether it is roads or parking lots,” he said.

“It’s part of a balanced process to deal with all of the issues before us.”

In terms of claims that parking strategies downtown are not being addressed, Sawatzky disagrees.

“There are city-owned parking lots that are not full now,” he said.

“There is existing parking that can be used now.”

The new rates are in line with the cost of a transit pass ($53 a month), what other communities charge and the cost of retaining land for parking.

Other actions taken in the 2013 budget include a $35,000 feasibility study for the airport runway, a $30,000 business plan to expand the longevity of the cemetery and energy-efficient upgrades at several buildings as part of carbon reduction.

Scrapping the Communities in Bloom program will save $9,100.

There will continue to be no charge for infant car seat installations by Vernon firefighters.

“We are enhancing some services and adjusting some fees to better reflect costs of services,” said Sawatzky.

“Overall, these decisions allow for 2.3 per cent in additional taxation revenue. There is a reduced impact on overall property taxes by increases to fees for services. The real impact to the home owner of a typical or average residential property is about $56.”