The City of Penticton is setting aside more downtown-area parking for downtown employees, looking to increase available stalls from 66 to 179, which would nearly deplete the current waiting list.
That includes opening up some employee-reserved spaces during off hours, including the Martin Street extension parking lot between Rotary Park and the Lakeside Resort, which development services director Anthony Haddad said sits empty from October to May.
Bringing the available stalls to 179 would nearly deplete the 180-person waiting list the city has for downtown employee reserve parking.
The most recent changes to the city’s parking strategy came after an hour-and-a-half debate in Penticton City Hall Tuesday, where Haddad presented the proposed changes alongside public engagement officer JoAnne Kleb.
Repurposing the Martin Street extension lot during the off season would add about 70 parking spaces alone, but the city will also be opening up a large section of Lakeshore Drive during the off season for free parking. Specifically, the space between Power Street and Winnipeg Street will be three-hour free parking during the summer — an increase from the previous two-hour parking in that space — with the time limit being lifted during the off season.
“For the cost of making some changes, here, we’re looking at, obviously additional signage, some line paint, to make sure the systems are available,” Haddad said, adding the communications the city would need to put out to inform people of the changes.
“When you look at the cost of utilizing close to 200 parking spaces, which is what we’re proposing, versus the cost of actually building parking spaces, we think this is a good short-term solution to deal with some of the problems.”
Among those problems, staff and councillors noted the issue of employees downtown taking up some of the parking on Main Street and moving their car every couple of hours to skirt enforcement — a practice that has drawn the ire of council in the past.
Some of those new parking spaces are setting aside certain blocks in the downtown area, and staff had originally paved the way for cordoning off those spaces for a 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. reserved use parking. Staff pushed that down to a 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. timeline in the area around the Cannery, which Coun. Max Picton said is a common place for people to have a beer after work, often at around 3 p.m.
“I just sort of see having a whole strip where they do typically park being reserved for employees only really exacerbating the issue with resident parking in that area,” he said.
“People that are now coming in are going to need a spot for the guests to park in, and I really see that pushing people into those residential streets in that area.”
The city’s latest parking plan will keep in place the resident-only parking spaces in the downtown and hospital area.
Aside from changing the timeline on reserved parking near the Cannery and the time limit removal during the off season on Lakeshore Drive, the parking plan went largely unaltered by council.
Staff also put forward a proposal that the city explore a major increase to a fee for developers who choose to shave off some mandatory parking spaces for the development.
Currently, developers who choose to create fewer parking spaces than mandated by zoning bylaws pay $6,000 per parking space they shave off, an increase from $2,000 a few years ago.
Now, staff will be taking a proposal to developers and to the city’s transportation and development committees to increase that to $20,000 per parking space as a way to discourage developers from coming up short on parking spaces.
That saw some healthy debate in council Tuesday, with councillors in favour of increasing the fee, but largely cautious of hiking that fee too high.
Staff are expected to explore that issue further at the committee level and in discussions with developers, and come back to council with a new proposal later.
The city will also be conducting a study on parking in the South Okanagan Events Centre campus area, which Haddad said wasn’t an acknowledgment that the current parking situation is causing issues.
“I think it’s important to reassure that we are always reviewing what is going on with regards to some of our busier areas of the community.”