Parking will continue to be free at two of Penticton’s most iconic locations.
City council voted on Tuesday, Aug. 18, in favour of having parking remain free at Skaha Lake Park and Okanagan Beach waterfront.
Councillors heard a lengthy presentation from city staff as staff made their case to expand pay parking into areas where parking has always been free.
Expanding pay parking would help to recoup some of the revenue the city lost as a result of COVID-19, explained the city’s director of development services Blake Laven.
The city’s engagement officer JoAnne Kleb presented council with two public surveys regarding pay parking that included opinions from a total of 1,300 residents.
One survey was comprised of random participants while the other was comprised of volunteers. While the voluntary survey saw 24 per cent in favour of the initiative, 37 per cent of participants in the randomly selected survey supported the implementation of paid parking.
Staff’s main reasons for expanding pay parking include creating additional funding for services such as maintaining public facilities like washrooms and parks as well as increasing bylaw enforcement, said Laven.
One of the biggest public concerns was that pay parking would discourage tourism business and tourism. However, Laven said it would have the opposite effect.
“Expanding the program in a thoughtful way actually increases opportunities for economic development and for supporting a lot of stuff that we want to do in the parks and downtown,” said Laven. “Linking the parking program to those items is a way we can really promote tourism and promote the product that we have in Penticton.”
Despite city staff’s nearly hour-long pitch, council remained uninterested in expanding pay parking in most areas.
Council unanimously agreed to not proceed with charging people to park at the lakeshore and in parks.
Coun. Katie Robinson said introducing pay parking at Skaha Lake Park and Lakeshore Drive would cause people to simply park on side streets which could potentially cause problems for nearby residents.
Mayor John Vassilaki was in support of expanding pay parking in most areas but believes that Skaha Lake Park and Okanagan Beach waterfront are two of the most “contentious” places to do so.
“I’m strong a believer that there is no such thing as free asphalt but in order to keep our uniqueness revenues have to be raised through taxation,” said Vassilaki.
Ultimately, Vassilaki sided with the rest of council in voting to not introduce pay parking at the two lakes.