The downtown business community has spoken.

Following a recent survey issued by the City of Meadow Lake to downtown businesses, city council – during its regular meeting held this past Tuesday (Oct. 10) – voted to rescind a previous resolution that called for two-hour parking in the downtown core to remain in place. Instead, the city will continue with soft enforcement of the existing regulations until new traffic bylaw amendments are in place to remove the two-hour parking restriction entirely.

“At our last meeting (Sept. 25), we asked administration to canvass the downtown area business people and present them with three choices – keep the two-hour parking as is with permits made available to the medical clinic and physiotherapy clinic, extend the limit to four-hour parking or to remove the parking restriction from the downtown and have no time limit on parking,” explained mayor Merlin Seymour.

The previous resolution to keep the two-hour parking in place was approved at council’s Aug. 28 meeting. On Sept. 25, however, Seymour presented the option of extending the limit to four hours while councillor Marty Bishop suggested the third option of removing the restrictions. At that time, council gave the green light to the three-option survey which was delivered to some downtown businesses Sept. 28.

However, according to Carla Silver – owner of The Shop at 132 Centre St. – much like the initial letter issued by the city this past summer to inform businesses about the decision to begin parking enforcement, the survey was addressed to property owners and not directly to business owners. As a result, Silver took it upon herself to visit city hall and request additional copies of the survey which she hand-delivered to those who did not receive one.

“I was instructed by city hall just to white out my survey and photocopy it to hand out,” Silver noted. “I refused, and asked them to make me a proper copy to hand out to businesses.”

Of the 70-plus businesses to receive a survey, more than 60 responded. Three (five per cent) voted to stick with the status quo, four (six per cent) voted to go with four-hour parking and 60 (91 per cent) chose to remove the parking restriction entirely.
The motion to amend the traffic bylaw based on the results of the survey was made by councillor Conrad Read and seconded by councillor Clay DeBray.

“You can see an overwhelming response – 60 people voted to get rid of the parking restriction – but my concern still revolves around the post office,” Read said. “This will mean 24-hour, unrestricted parking right in front of the post office.”

City manager Diana Burton replied.

“The post office’s response to the survey was to remove (the restrictions),” Burton said.

Seymour, meanwhile, expressed the concern he has with wide-open parking allowing business owners and employees to park in front of their shops, thus taking parking spaces away from potential customers.

“If I was a business owner, I would be telling my staff not to park there or I’m going to go out of business,” Read said.

Seymour agreed, but said the issue still leads to an unsatisfactory conclusion.

“We’re damned if we do and we’re damned if we don’t (enforce parking restrictions),” he said.

Bishop, however, disagreed, noting the business community has spoken.

Seymour did agree with this.

“As far as we at this table, we don’t really have any control over what the business people want,” he said. “But – if I have to park in front of The Source to go to RBC – I’m probably going to drive around the block a few times. It’s a safety thing. Or – and I don’t do this, but I’ve seen it happen numerous times – people are driving down the street and see a parking spot on the left side, and they will cross (illegally) to the opposite side to park there.”

Read said this is something community safety officer Joe Hallahan can enforce.

“That’s going to happen anyway,” Bishop said.

Read’s motion was subsequently carried. Seymour, however, did not vote in its favour.

by Phil Ambroziak