The new Visitor Paid Parking Program for the Town of Sylvan Lake has run into a number road blocks in its implementation. There have been some technical hitches, and a number of residents raising concerns about how the new system will operate -and how that will affect them – when it is fully implemented. This has led to Council looking to see further public consultation at a special subsequent meeting to their last regular meeting on May 23.
Director of Community Services & Emergency Management Ron Lebsack provided an update on the progress of the Visitor Paid Parking Program to Council at its May 23 meeting. Lebsack optimistically reported to Council that “we are not seeing a shortfall in residents registering,” noting that at the time of the meeting, almost 900 people had signed up for the program’s electronic permitting system.
However, Lebsack said there had been minor delays and miscommunication relating to the creation of the system’s database – leading to issues like local secondary suites not being included in the registration system, at first.
Lebsack also disclosed a number of concerns voiced by residents, relating to the new parking system. One of the most prevalent of those concerns was the need many residents expressed, for than two parking permits per household.
Lebsack and Council discussed the many scenarios in which a family with more than one driver, or people in cohabitation situations at local residences would be adversely affected, and insufficiently provisioned with a two-permit limit per household.
Another anticipated difficulty that Lebsack brought to Council was the trouble anyone attending any of the three churches in the downtown area would face, since those downtown churches are located on the same street as, or near restricted parking areas included in the program.
Some residents also expressed concern that the system would adversely affect their ability to see doctors in the downtown area. Lebsack suggested that this problem could lead to downtown-based doctors losing patients, because of difficulties elderly or mobility challenged patients would face, having to pay for parking or having to park further away from their doctor’s offices to avoid parking expenses.
An additional concern Lebsack relayed to Council was the fact that there were no exemptions made in the program for spaces downtown that are marked as handicapped parking stalls.
Coun. Jas Payne was supportive of a review of the details associated with the Visitor Paid Parking Program, and the concerns that arose from it. Payne acknowledged that as it is, the program would adversely affect many residents, and that “we should be reconsidering the two-pass limit, per household.”
Payne also suggested a means to deal with church parking issues was to simply make an exemption for people attending those churches, adding that “I do think we need to go through this, and voice our concerns before we decide to do it for a year, and infuriate a bunch of people.”
Coun. Megan Hanson and Graham Parsons described a personal concern they both had with the system, noting that when a person signs up for permits, there is no confirmation sent to them.
“There will always be unintentional consequences to these things happening. Some of the things we’ve been able to identify – some things we probably didn’t recognize at the time,” said Coun. Chris Lust, who recommended that the Town use this coming summer season as an opportunity for learning about how the system will work. “I think there will be problematic areas, but I don’t think they’re nearly as bad as people think they will be.”
A total of 10 solar powered pay stations for the system are operational within the Town, Lesback noted. He said the original plan was to install five hardwired pay stations in local parking lots and five that were powered by solar panels, in the downtown area.
In his report, Lebsack stated that it was determined to be less labour and cost intensive to simply install all the units with solar panels, as opposed to breaking apart concrete, finding and hooking up five of those units to electrical conduits in the sites chosen for their installation.
Council concluded the discussion by defeating a motion to bring forward a review of the Visitor Pay Parking Program after one year of implementation. Council subsequently carried a motion to bring forward and address residents’ concerns, and identify those options as items to be implemented now or in the future.
To specifically address concerns associated with the Visitor Paid Parking Program, Council conducted a special meeting on May 31, at Town Hall. See next week’s issue of the Sylvan Lake News for more details on that meeting, and further details on the concerns it addressed.