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Comment: Don’t make changes to our parking policies

Having read the articles on parking for the downtown (“Parking plan ‘hijacked’ by cash claims,” Feb. 14.), I consider the recommendations by parking staff a bad idea, and even more so since reading some of the councillors’ comments.

Having read the articles on parking for the downtown (“Parking plan ‘hijacked’ by cash claims,” Feb. 14.), I consider the recommendations by parking staff a bad idea, and even more so since reading some of the councillors’ comments.

Implementation of the recommendations would only deal with some of the issues of parking and not comprehensively with respect to the impacts on the economic viability of downtown, including the negative impacts on the existing retail and discussion of enhancements that are required downtown. The question is, does implementation of this report enhance the downtown? I think not.

As a former city manager, I would not have let this report past my desk until there had been a review of the negative impacts of increasing parking fees downtown. Especially in light of the many vacant downtown retail spaces, the ongoing migration of many high-end retailers to Uptown, the impacts of the big-box stores in Langford, where parking is free, and the ongoing complaints from retailers that all is not well in downtown.

The administration and management of a city should never permit only one department to report when the issue is complex and requires input from many areas. Greater consideration of the city’s business community is in order. Customer service is paramount at a time when the business community strongly views any increase in parking fees as complex, not required and negative to downtown’s economic viability.

To make recommendations to increase hours of required payment for parking, increase parking fees and increase the complexity of parking requirements is negative to downtown and its future. The mayor of Langford has taken the position for many years that there will be no paid parking in Langford, and I can’t believe how many cars arrive in Langford from Victoria and other communities with loads of retail money, at the expense, in part, of the viability of our downtown retail.

Are increased parking revenues a priority for our politicians? Isn’t there a need to be more concerned about sustainability of downtown and getting on with better attitudes toward partnership and incentives for developers?

The city needs strategies to increase densities and change zoning without major cash outlays and partnerships to relocate major facilities in the downtown such as a new main library and art gallery. It should continue every year to undertake major downtown projects to enhance streets and public art, including the completion of the sculpture on Broad Street where budget funds have been set in reserves for more than 14 years. It also needs plans to enhance dock space and development on the harbourfront and Belleville Street.

The lack of action on all of these issues indicates a serious lack of focus on strategy, action and enhancement. The development of the lands in the legislative precinct and the completion of the developments under the Victoria Accord will finally be a positive factor in renewal and enhancement of downtown.

While these initiatives are only some of the actions yet to be taken or changed, there is also the issue of taxation, where there is now an over-taxation issue downtown, as perceived by the retailers, where we need to consider decreasing the taxation differential between residential and retail commercial zoning.

Many city residents, have been hurt by the attitudes and behaviours of parking bylaw enforcement, which is almost military-like, to better educate and train officers to be less aggressive and more friendly in their approach. While the need to enforce is understood, there is also a need for a change of image and a much more customer-friendly approach to enforcement, similar to what has been successfully initiated in other communities.

Lastly, let’s make it all simple. Do not implement the plan at this time but rather initiate an economic study of downtown with the public and the retail community, before making decisions on parking. Undertake to establish specific projects and new programs to enhance downtown, including partnerships with others and the provision of new and innovative incentives for revitalization, as has been done successfully in many other cities in Canada in their downtowns.

This should all be completed before making decisions about parking and before the next election.


Donald Roughley is a former city manager for Victoria, Waterloo and Scarborough.