Call it the parking lot shuffle.
Sidney council has approved several changes to parking in downtown Sidney, with more on the horizon.
Key among the changes is the pending conversion of Parking Lot A at the corner of Second Street and Bevan Avenue into free, time-limited public parking by end of September. Provincial authorities earlier this year informed the town that its lease of the lot prohibits it from charging for parking. The municipality had converted the property into a long-term parking lot in 2010.
The municipality’s long-term pay parking lot will now be Lot F a block away at the corner of Third Street and Bevan. Council’s unanimous decision to convert Lot A came after council had expressed reservation about using Lot E at the corner of Bevan and Seventh Street.
While the municipality could have maintained Lot A as a commercial parking lot by paying a commercial lease rate of at least $160,000, current annual revenues are less than $30,000.
During the discussions Aug. 15, councillors quickly agreed on Lot F, with its 34 parking spots, as the municipality’s future long-term pay parking lot. They needed more time to agree on the number of monthly parking passes available at the lot and who would be able to access it, trying to balance the parking needs of business owners and their employees with those of customers.
In the end, councillors settled on allowing up to 20 monthly parking spaces in Lot F – 36 have been available at Lot A – a figure in line with the number available at other municipal-owned lots.
The vote was nearly unanimous – only Coun. Barbara Fallot was opposed – on restricting these future spots to owners and employees of businesses associated with the Sidney Business Improvement Area Society. Coun. Chad Rintoul had pushed for up to 25 spots, but his figure never came to a vote.
Council also agreed to set the monthly rate for Lot F at $70, up from $50, and from $75 to $100 if less than three months are purchased at one time. Both Fallot and O’Keeffe had argued for $100.
While these moves change some aspects of parking in downtown Sidney, they are likely interim measures. The municipality is preparing to select a company to study downtown parking and present a report, likely in January 2023, when staff will also present its review of rates for municipal lots.
During Monday’s discussion, Coun. Peter Wainwright recommended a future council eliminate monthly parking passes entirely. Couns. Fallot and Terri O’Keeffe added the municipality has already invested considerably in providing free parking at Mary Winspear Centre, while Fallot compared the longer walk from that lot at the end of Beacon Avenue to the waterfront with a walk across a mall parking lot.
But other members of council also highlighted the need of business owners for reliable parking for their businesses and their staff, which in some cases, may impact health-care providers.
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