Downtown Port Stanley BIA parking strategy approved
Port Stanley’s Business Improvement Area (BIA) won backing from Central Elgin Council on Monday night for plans to wrest control of town center parking from the hands of seasonal visitors and tourists.
The Council unanimously backed the recommendations in a letter from BIA Chairman Dustin Allen calling for two-hour parking limits on downtown streets from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. throughout the high summer season. They also recommended that Elgin County consider adopting the same changes to the routes it operates in Port Stanley.
The BIA also asked council to delineate legal parking spaces with paint, further guiding motorists toward a more reasonable sharing of the business district’s streetscape. However, no action has been taken on this.
“History has shown numerous instances of vehicles blocking driveways, parking in front of fire hydrants, double-parking – especially on the west side of Main Street – and occupying more than one parking spot,” Allen said in the BIA’s message to council. .
The letter also references his consultations with William Street businesses about the impact of paid parking on Main Beach parking. “Zero street…parking was available late June, all of July and all of August, after 10 a.m. because people didn’t want to pay to park for a day at the beach, so they ‘dumped’ their vehicles” , said the letter continues.
“It got better after the two hour maximum signs were put up, (but) the lanes started to fill up with vehicles, trailers and motorhomes, often blocking the driveways or parking directly on the lawns” , Allen added. “Tourists were wandering through backyards, jumping fences and entering neighborhoods surrounding paid parking lots to get to Main Beach and avoid paying for parking.”
Lloyd Perrin, director of asset management and development services at Central Elgin, said: “The parking spaces will not be painted. Painting parking spaces will reduce the number of cars that could potentially be accommodated on the street, as spaces should be painted based on the longest vehicle length (such as a pickup truck or large SUV). If the spaces are unpainted, smaller vehicles could parallel park in the same area with reasonable space between them and accommodate more vehicles.
Allen’s letter was the BIA’s official response to the new rate and charge settlement approved by the Board on November 8, 2021.
“We believe these clearly painted lines and two-hour limits will give customers plenty of time to shop locally, eat locally, and even attend the Festival Theater,” Allen said. “We understand that these limits will not deter everyone from this ‘spill’, but the majority of visitors unfamiliar with Port Stanley and village regulations will think twice.”
Central Elgin’s User Fee Committee, chaired by Deputy Mayor Tom Marks, decided in November to expand the off-street parking network after reviewing the $412,317 the municipality generated from 5.2 acres of space on four lots.
The off-street parking lots, called Main Beach, Old Ball Park, Pierside Beach and Boat Launch, operate daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., May 1 through September 30. The Boat Launch car park operates 24 hours a day.
For 2022, councilors accepted the committee’s recommendation to add 4.58 acres of space in five lots, generating up to $336,016 in additional revenue, equivalent to 2% of the 2021 tax levy. Paid off-street parking lots are: Little Beach, East Headlands, Visitor Centre, Erie Rest and Pharmacy Lot. Four “courtesy parking spots” will provide 15 minutes of free parking at the Visitor Center and Pharmacy parking lot.
Council also approved the expenditure of $125,762 to purchase 14 new parking meters, including nine to replace old ones at Main Beach and Boat Launch lots. They will be installed in May, before the Victoria Day weekend.
“These considerations would align with Council’s October 28, 2019 Climate Emergency Resolution, to identify target areas of municipal policy that can have the greatest impact in reducing local impact on climate change,” according to the committee report.
“Generally, it would be beneficial to appreciate and use the value of parking assets in the achievement of other social and environmental objectives,” the committee’s report continues. “In Central Elgin’s 2021 budget, net beach expenses (cleaning and maintenance) are $621,898 funded by the levy. The generation of additional parking revenue could be used to offset these expenses.
The committee and city staff formulated their off-street parking strategy after reading a new paper prepared for the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance (IMFG), by Almos Tassonyi and Harry Kitchen.
“The strength of a user fee is its ability to recover all the costs of providing a service by linking user fees to those who use it,” according to Tassonyi and Kitchen’s report. “This is the classic model of public finance based on the benefits received – in other words, those who benefit are those who pay, also known as the ‘Wicksellian connection’. When this link is made, it is possible to satisfy several important criteria in the financing of public services: efficiency, accountability, transparency, equity and ease of administration.
On Monday night Ward 5 Councilor Fiona Wynn said: ‘I kinda like the idea of a two hour maximum. I think it’s a great idea and unless I’m missing something it might not go very far but somehow to help relieve a lot of the pressure to park in the harbor .
Costs at municipal parking lots are $4 per hour, $20 per day and $30 per day if users have a trailer. A single-vehicle season pass is $100. A season pass for a single vehicle with a boat trailer costs $120.
“It’s a concept we talked about when we were talking about the other bylaws,” Ward 1 Councilor Colleen Row said. “It was just, at the time, that we thought well, we’ll see what happens, but there’s been enough vocal concern about it (that) we need the limit to keep businesses going. and turnover.”