One goal of the Downtown Parking Commission is to replace remaining coin-fed parking meters with new smart meters. (File photo)

One goal of the Downtown Parking Commission is to replace remaining coin-fed parking meters with new smart meters. (File photo)

Mayor reluctant to risk downtown Salmon Arm’s vibrancy for on-street paid parking

Parkade a mid-term goal in new Downtown Parking Plan

The idea of increasing the number of paid parking stalls in Salmon Arm’s downtown doesn’t sit well with the city’s mayor.

At it’s Sept. 27 meeting, city council formally received The Downtown Parking Plan, an effort initiated by the city’s Downtown Parking Commission in 2018.

Engineering and public works director Rob Niewenhuizen explained a lot of public input went into the process behind creating the plan, including 203 survey responses, and that the end result will serve as a road map for moving forward.

“There’s a number of items in there that will be coming forward through the budget process, as well as a review of the rates for downtown parking, extended parking, monthly parking, etc,” said Niewenhuizen.

Coun. Chad Eliason, the city’s representative on the commission, said one of the things council can expect in the short term from the planning document is being asked to approve the use of money from reserves to replace coin operated machines near the cenotaph and around city hall with smart meters.

“We’re going to slowly, gradually go to smarter parking, and then, over time, we’ll look at things like the parkade, the north side of the tracks to include the waterfront area as part of our jurisdiction – but not under a levy,” said Eliason.

In the document is a list of 11 recommendations that include: implementing on-street parking time restrictions (2-hour limit) throughout the downtown, introducing a “higher on-street parking fee to be consistent with other comparable B.C. municipalities (suggesting $1 to $1.25 an hour), implementation of a kiosk metering systems throughout the downtown, and an educational initiative “discussing the benefits of implementing paid parking and how the additional revenue generated will positively impact business in the area.”

An implementation plan is also included, with short and mid-term goals. For the short term (0-2 years), the plan advises expanding paid parking within the downtown (assuming 25 per cent of the space), at an approximate cost of $105,000; increasing the parking fee to $1.25 per hour for “partially expanded paid parking” and providing defined motorcycle parking.

Read more: Parking in downtown Salmon Arm moving to two hours except for one street

Read more: Salmon Arm survey suggests paid parking options, time limits for downtown

Mid-term goals include construction of the previously proposed 4th Street parkade; implementing the “full extent of pay parking” downtown; providing additional electric vehicle charging stations, and additional parking (including for RVs and tour buses) on the north side of the train tracks following the completion of the Ross Street underpass.

While all of council appreciated the work that went into the report, Mayor Alan Harrison said there were some items contained within that he wouldn’t support. He asked specifically about short-term plans to expand paid parking in the downtown.

Eliason said the commission has no plans at the moment to increase the number of paid stalls – the goal is to make existing paid parking more efficient by exchanging coin operated meters for smart meters.

“We may ask for the direction to have the ability to control or to monitor the north side of the tracks, given that’s going to connect our downtown in a more efficient manner,” said Eliason. “There may be parking issues over there.”

Eliason didn’t anticipate any changes would be made to increase short-term or paid parking in the downtown until “we’re ready to make the next step as a city.”

Referring to the report’s executive summary, Harrison said one of its purposes is to enhance the vitality of the downtown core, something he thinks is already vibrant and doesn’t want to risk by charging for parking on the street.

“And so I won’t support it if it comes forward… I don’t want there to be an expectation if I vote to receive this report that somehow I’m saying yes, I’m in favour of adding on-the-street parking, because I’m not,” said Harrison.

“The report shows 72 per cent of the residents are not in favour either. And if it happens and those 72 per cent who go downtown don’t go downtown anymore, then we do not have a vibrant downtown.”

Eliason replied the mayor’s message had been received.

Council voted unanimously in favour of receiving the report.

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