Plans for a large parking lot south of the Mary Winspear Centre in Sidney will certainly have some people initially wondering what town hall is thinking.
Paving over what is essentially one of the first views of the community people have as they head north on the Pat Bay Highway will raise eyebrows.
However, for business owners and residents within Sidney, alleviating parking issues downtown is a good thing. But is a 314-stall asphalt lot dominating that side of the town the right way to do it?
A parking study done for the town in 2007 and updated in 2011 indicated there are enough current spaces to meet the demand. That study does point out that as the community grows, those spaces will become harder to find and the municipality would have to consider a parkade.
It also shows, as do most parking studies, that most drivers don’t want to park far away from their destination — they want to be able to park close by. A parkade or large parking lot probably isn’t the answer to that problem.
Sidney hopes to encourage employees of downtown businesses to use the proposed new lot — and by encourage, they mean educate at first and then use time limits and fines to discourage.
Will it work to clear up new spaces for customers downtown? Anything is possible, but driver habits are hard to break.
The parking study also makes numerous calls to the municipality to consider pay parking to keep drivers moving and spots coming open more often. It’s a move only taken up in town-owned off-street lots and perhaps not a good move, politically. After all, parking complaints are some of the most common local councillors face.
Yet, Sidney will try to lessen the din of complaints by considering this new parking area. Will a million-dollar lot be the answer, or lead to more questions? Time will tell, as the project hinges on the municipality getting a grant from federal gas taxes.
That, and the feedback from the community that such a plan is likely to receive.