CITY council voted last night at the regular council meeting to start charging businesses if they don’t supply the number of parking spots required by the city’s bylaw.
This amendment to the city’s parking bylaw will mean that a new business must pay $3,500 for every parking spot below the requirement.
Currently the city’s parking bylaw stipulates the number of parking spots a new business must have if they open in the downtown core based on the total area of the proposed building and also – in the case of restaurants and hotels – the number of rooms or tables.
City planner David Block told council that typically variance permits are generously granted to businesses to allow them to significantly reduce the number of parking spots.
With a new fee in place, said Block, a variance permit might be granted for approximately 50 per cent of parking spots in situations where parking spaces are difficult for a business to provide, after which a one-time charge of $3,500 will be levied per spot that is lacking.
This money will be put into what is called the Parking Acquisition Equity Fund to go toward enhancing city parking projects.
However, the permitted uses of this fund changed several years ago to include anything transportation-related, and this concerned city council.
“But where does the money go?” councillor James Cordeiro queried. He was backed by all the other councillors at the table including Stacey Tyers, Brian Downie, Lynne Christiansen and Marylin Davies who wanted some assurance that the money would actually go toward developing solutions to Terrace’s downtown parking congestion.
Earlier in the night the Terrace Downtown Improvement Area Society presented a list of recommendations to council which included building a parkade in front of the Sportsplex where there is currently a grassy hill, a plan that Lynne Christiansen opposed.
At first Downie was the only councilor who thought $3,500 was enough for in-lieu payments, an amount which is in fact lower than the cost of building a parking spot when the value of the land is included, though he said the recommendation “doesn’t go far enough” in outlining how the money will be spent.
Tyers said that Terrace should aim higher with this fee and go with a number more along the lines of Smithers, which starts at $5,500 and is moving to $10,000 per in-lieu parking spot.
The amount that Terrace would charge is at the bottom of a list of comparable fees in other municipalities, she noted.
“We need an amount that will enable us to acquire land if we need it,” said Tyers.
“It seems backwards that when we are looking for more parking we are giving them an ‘out’ instead,” said Christiansen.
In the end council voted to accept the $3,500 in-lieu fee, however they decided to review the amount at a future time.
The amendment to the parking bylaw is back at the next council meeting on May 26.
If it passes the in-lieu charge will apply only to new business and those that are redeveloping.