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Free parking lots to remain downtown

City will also end tax rebates on Industrial and Shopping Centre vacant units
20170208 Parking Open House KA 02
Don Scott, transit manager for the city (standing) and Vince Mauceri of Transforward Consulting listen to concerns of local business owners during a public consultation last February at the Civic Centre. Kenneth Armstrong/SooToday

The city will continue to offer two hour free parking in the 10 downtown lots, but will add the option to pay for parking after that with the addition of 13 pay-and-display machines.

Don Scott, manager of Transit and Parking, said staff heard 'loud and clear' the concerns of downtown businesses about the potential loss of the free parking lots when public consultations were held in February.

During last night’s meeting of city council, Scott said the possibility of eliminating the free downtown parking lots was met with ‘overwhelming resistance’.

In his report to council, Scott recommended maintaining the two hour free parking, while offering the option to purchase additional time at the cost of $1.25 an hour to a daily maximum of $5.

Previously, someone using the lots could use two hours of free parking with no option to extend that time.

“We feel this report addresses the needs of the downtown and I feel it addresses the needs of the customers wanting to go downtown,” said Scott.

An option to purchase parking by a phone app will also be offered before the end of the year, said Scott.

With services like gyms, hair salons, dentist offices, etc. offered, Scott said many downtown businesses would benefit from the opportunity to purchase additional time.

“Many times people have to stay longer than two hours,” said Scott.

The Bingham lot, which is located behind the Tim Hortons on Bay Street at Brock will be reconfigured to allow improved traffic flow for vehicles and pedestrians and the addition of a basketball court will be considered for the Brock and Albert lot at the loss of 13 parking spaces.

Examining three years of vehicle counts, the department found the Brock/Albert lot never exceeded 70 per cent usage of its 144 parking spaces during the daytime hours, allowing for the alternative use of one corner of the lot for recreational purposes.

Gates to control entry to the parking lots are not currently under consideration, but the option will be explored at a future Parking Committee meeting.

It was noted at last night's meeting that Scott will soon be retiring after working with the city for some 30 years.

Mayor Christian Provenzano took a moment to thank Scott for his service.

”We’re sorry you are retiring, but you've earned it and we hope you have a fantastic retirement,” said Provenzano.

In brief:

A motion by Ward 3 councillor Judy Hupponen seeking to have a current bylaw prohibiting wild or exotic animal exhibitions amended to include domestic animals, like dogs and horses, was instead sent to city staff to report back. Some members of council received concerns from the public that the amended bylaw would prohibit dog shows or events such as the RCMP’s Musical Ride.

Staff will report back to council about the possibility of city employees paying to park at the Civic Centre and other city-owned properties after a motion by Ward 3 councillor Matthew Shoemaker was passed with mixed support. Councillors Susan Myers, Sandra Hollingsworth, Lou Turco and Joe Krmpotich voted against the motion.

City council has decided to end a tax rebate for Industrial and Shopping Centres after a review of rebate practices for vacant units in the city. Other commercial spaces will continue to be eligible for a tax rebate on vacant units, but will now be limited to claiming that rebate only three years per 10-year period. An exemption has also been made to allow for temporary uses, like charitable window displays. The new policy goes into effect July 1.