Two Prince Rupert business owners spoke out against proposed amendments to the city’s zoning bylaw, which would affect parking in the downtown core, at public hearing on Jan. 23.
City planner Myfanwy Pope, presented both a written and verbal report to council that one of the recommendations in the July Interim Parking Management Strategy was to introduce a Parking Specified Area (PSA) in Prince Rupert’s business core where new commercial and mixed developments were exempt from the minimum parking requirements.
“Waiving these requirements within the PSA would mean that developers are no longer required to provide the specified number of parking stalls or pay in lieu fees for new buildings that are commercial, office or mixed-use within this area.”
Pope explained in her report the proposal would simplify the system and incentivize development in the areas that are intended for densification.
However, city resident and business owner Terry Sawka posed the question to council, where are vehicles going to park if developers and business owners want to renovate the upper floors of downtown businesses into residences or apartments?
Sawka said he is not in favour of the proposed amendments and while “the master plan for the past ten years” has been to develop more housing downtown, most of the businesses along Third Ave. don’t have access to or parking behind the buildings.
Another business owner, Joe Marvici said he is frustrated by the “all-day parking” by staff from businesses who then move their vehicles every two hours, congesting the parking spaces along the street. This creates challenges when deliveries or donation drop-offs occur to his business.
“It’s a real problem with parking. Some people that work on the street will park on Third Ave. all day. It becomes a problem, the only choice we have is to double park …We’d like to see something done about it.”
Marvici said more than a year ago, he applied for a loading zone to be implemented in front of his business, which he believes would relieve some congestion. He has not heard anything back about it, he said.
Pope explained in the written report a proposed policy change would, establish an area where no minimum off-street parking requirements are in effect, with the exception of exclusive residential uses (single, duplex, and multifamily buildings); maintain any existing off-street parking in this area (no loss of off-street parking); maintain existing parking regulations outside of the specified area; ensure that all other sections in Section 9 of the Zoning Bylaw regarding standards and ratios for bicycle, disabled parking, loading, and electrified parking requirements are applicable in and outside of the PSA.
According to Pope’s report, city staff investigated and found 1,677 existing off-street parking spaces downtown. When the city was questioned where these spaces were, the city responded in a Jan. 25 email.
“The total figure for off-street spaces includes parking lots on both public and private property. This would include parking for both commercial and residential developments downtown – ranging from large lots like the mall to smaller lots like the one at the College or Seniors Centre. Ultimately, any parking that is not on-street,” the city stated.
“If the existing minimum parking requirements were met, space for an additional 5,105 additional stalls would have been required. This number suggests that existing off-street parking minimums downtown are out of step with existing space and need for parking (more stalls required than needed) as well as best practices regarding parking management. Best practices for parking management discourage parking minimums as they introduce sprawl and promote automobile dependency,” Pope said.
The city told The Northern View in the email that they are promoting a reduction of vehicle use in the municipality. Planning for this, as it is an anticipated future pattern because more people will be using their feet, is outlined in the OCP principles of Complete Communities and Smart Growth, “which lessen automobile reliance while promoting growth of walkable neighbourhoods.”
The bylaw will not result in loss of any off-street parking spaces, as this does not mean removing existing parking,” the email stated. “On the contrary, the bylaw explicitly protects existing parking. Furthermore, any additional standalone residential infilling of lots downtown will also need to provide parking for their potential residents so as to minimize any impact of the amendment on actual available parking.”
“The amendment is proposed to both bring our standards in line with best practices and to prevent our parking standards from deterring redevelopment downtown. Current parking requirements, particularly in the smaller lots we have downtown, can pose significant logistical and financial barriers to downtown revitalization – a goal outlined in our OCP and reiterated by our current council.”
K-J Millar | Editor and Multimedia Journalist
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