Modest rate increases, heavier fine increases and free winter season parking is coming to downtown Picton pending council ratification and approval from the Ontario Court of Justice.
The Committee of the whole approved amendments to its parking bylaw at its regular meeting on Thursday.
The amendments were endorsed by the Picton Business Improvement Association although a request by the BIA to move the free parking commencement date to Nov. 1 failed to gain traction with councillors.
Weekday motorists parking in downtown Picton this summer will find rates per hour will have risen from $1/hour to $1.50/hour and those neglecting to use a pay station and produce a display ticket will face increased fines.
After some discussion, the Committee found it palatable to approve Councillor Phil Prinzen’s motion to increase set fines further than municipal staff had originally offered in preparing their draft submission.
Currently, those picking up a parking ticket can voluntarily pay a fine of $7 within seven days at which point the fine increases to $10.
If approved through the aforementioned channels, the set fines will increase to $20 within seven days and $25 dollars after the week long grace period.
The offset to those rate increases is those parking in the downtown Picton area between Dec. 1 and March 31 will be able to enjoy free, two hour parking.
Picton Councillor Phil St. Jean said he was happy to see four months of free parking during the four months of winter, a time when the tourist traffic tends to be lighter.
“Very happy to see benefit for locals and it proves it’s not all about the tourists all the time,” St. Jean said. “The rates and fines are still very reasonable and in the discussions I’ve had with the public, this has been welcome news.”
St. Jean said his only concern was with a handful of local merchants who tend to abuse the free parking that the Municipality currently offers in the month of December and wondered if that abuse would continue under the new practice.
“There are several easily identifiable vehicles (owned by local business owners) that continuously park beyond the two hour limit and there will likely be abuses going forward,” St. Jean said “I want to make sure that abuse doesn’t continue.”
Planning Department staff member Peter Welsh spoke on behalf of Chief Building Officer Andy Harrison on Thursday and said if there are problems arising, Bylaw officials will increase patrols and conduct further enforcement.
“Those abusing the two hour window will be ticketed accordingly,” Welsh said.
In making his motion to increase the fines, Prinzen said the proposal by staff was not in line with other communities.
“If we think in terms of fines, it’s under the rate of reasonable,” Prinzen said. “People in the city are used to paying $15 to park so I think there’s lots of room.”
South Marysburgh Councillor John Hirsch said he would support a fines increase but needed the confidence that the pay stations are producing a ticket that’s legible.
Our even producing tickets at all.
And confusion around the machines not accepting coins less than a quarter (they don’t) is an issue also.
“I would support only if the machines are working properly,” Hirsch said. “Sometimes, they don’t put out a ticket, sometimes there’s nothing on the ticket and as you’ve heard here today, a lot of people are having issues with the machines.”
Local business owner Michelle Mossey told council during the comments from the audience portion of the meeting that she have been taking her customers parking tickets and paying the fines out of her own pocket after the parkers have had issues with the machine’s pay and display tickets.
“The whole design of the meters is very frustrating,” Mossey said.
The Municipality is expected to come up with signage explaining the new rates and fines.
The Feed the Meter Food for Learning Campaign in the month of December is also expected to continue.