With the still-weak economy effecting a virtual paralysis of major development in Penticton, a new growth industry has emerged in the city: the lucrative and fast-paced sphere of paid parking lots.
Following the city’s own move to start charging for parking in its empty lots downtown — not to mention the Penticton Regional Hospital’s widely unpopular decision to do the same — three separate landowners received support from city council Monday night to turn their properties into paid parking.
Council voted 5-1 to give third reading approval for P2 Developments Inc. to create a temporary parking lot at 450 Martin St.
The existing phased development agreement with the city for the site calls for the construction of a 23-storey three-tower development, although that plan might be quashed by federal aviation legislation. Currently, the empty property is already being used by residents as a free parking lot.
“Staff supports the temporary use of the site as a parking lot as it will provide a more organized, safer and visually appealing site than what is there now,” said city planning technologist Blake Laven, asserting that P2 Developments should not be forced to spend money paving the lot, only to have to remove it when the site is developed.
Council agreed; however, it did make the parking lot’s approval subject to the “cleaning up” of the corner of Wade Avenue and Martin Street with some simple landscaping work and the addition of a bench or two.
Only Coun. Mike Pearce voted against the proposal as he wanted council to only approve half the lot for paid parking while forcing the land owners to leave the other half free.
“I think it is a disaster waiting to happen if you have another 150 car owners that will now have to start paying (money to park) there all day,” said Pearce. “They are not going to do it. They are going to park all over the street and clutter up all the parking lot in the shopping centre across the road.”
Later on, council also gave unanimous approval for new paid parking lots at 169 Estabrook Ave. and 1102 Burnaby Ave.
The former, according to Laven, is also a large vacant site in the downtown core where the owner, Wildstone Construction and Engineering, wishes to operate a paid parking lot until they have secured the necessary funding to redevelop the property.
“Given (its) location and development potential, staff support the variance application and anticipate the redevelopment of the site in the near future,” said Laven. “If the site were to be constructed to the bylaw requirements (including paving), it may discourage development of the site sooner because of the return time on the investment to install the required parking lot infrastructure.”
Burnaby Avenue property owner Randy Beuselinck was granted a temporary use permit to operate a paid parking lot from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the summer season when parking in the neighbourhood is scarce due to the popularity of tubing down the river channel. He will have to clean up the site and erect fencing.