In an era of parking fee increases everywhere in the Okanagan, the City of Vernon is looking at lowering fees back down.
Vernon City Council has instructed staff to look into options for variable parking rates throughout the downtown core which may see prices drop back down in less busy areas.
This was prompted by several city councillors who argue that they would like to see fees reduced back down to 50 cents per hour in the majority of areas.
In response, City staff were clear in their warning to council that before they make a decision they need to know it will hurt the bottom line.
Chief Administrative Officer, Will Pearce, warned council that reducing parking fees will take between $107,000 to $190,000 out of the City’s 2014 budget.
“This is a substantial change in projected revenue,” said Pearce, adding that there is pressure to complete this year’s budget quickly.
“We are running out of time to set the tax rate.”
Councillor Brian Quiring feels that regardless of the loss of revenue the prices need to be lowered back down as the increased parking rate is doing more harm than good.
“I think for some of the businesses that are further away from the really busy areas are being really hurt by it,” said Quiring.
“I don't think we are being fair to some of those merchants. I think that yes there are costs associated with a change, but as it is now some of the merchants are losing businesses.”
Quiring also brought up a report presented to city council several years ago that was essentially ignored.
It had suggested rates go up only on 30th Avenue and nowhere else, instead rates went up around the city.
City staff recommended to council that rates remain the same, at $1 per hour, but gave council two options if they do choose to lower the rates.
The options presented showed two scenarios were certain blocks and areas would have their parking rates dropped back down to 50 cents per hour.
Councillor Juliette Cunningham also wants rates decreased, she is a business owner downtown and says the current rate is causing significant problems for residents
“People feel that they have no options,” she said. “People aren’t parking, they aren’t doing it.”
Mayor Rob Sawatzky was against lowering the rates back down saying the city needs the revenue to maintain parking spaces.
“If we have chased people from going downtown, why are all of those spaces used?” he asked council.
City staff will now come back to council with a report detailing the options, the costs associated, and the possible alternatives to increased taxes to make up for any parking meter shortfalls in revenue.