Ladies and gentlemen, turn off your engines. Parking in Creston’s metered spots will be free in June, July and August.
Coun. Jerry Schmalz appeared to take some Creston town council members by surprise on Tuesday when he introduced a motion to eliminate parking charges at metered spots for a year. After some discussion, he had enough support to wipe out the need to plug meters for three months.
When development services director Lou Varela explained that a report on parking options was nearly ready for council’s consideration, Schmalz countered by saying elected representatives had been waiting for three years to tackle parking issues.
“Let’s just move on this even if it’s only for six months,” he said.
Even the observation by finance and corporate services director Steffan Klassen that anticipated parking meter revenues were already in the recently passed 2011-2012 budget failed to derail the Schmalz proposal.
Earlier this year, council directed Varela to produce a report that would include a variety of downtown parking options, including the elimination of meters. She said the report would also solicit input from the Creston Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Creston Valley Business Association.
Coun. Len Folkman said the current system of ticketing vehicles for parking meter violations isn’t working.
“Our parking guy isn’t doing his job,” he said. “It’s a joke.”
Folkman said the men he has coffee with downtown in the morning don’t pay for parking at the meters.
“These guys park downtown all the time and they never get a ticket.”
“I’ve had my share of tickets,” Coun. Joanna Wilson said.
Coun. Judy Gadicke, who made the “friendly amendment” to reduce Schmalz’s one-year proposal to three months, added to the motion that bylaw officers would be directed to chalk tires and gather data about traffic movement on downtown streets.
“I agree,” said Mayor Ron Toyota. “Let’s try the free parking out before we make any bylaw changes.”
Coun. Wes Graham concurred.
“We have been waiting for three years to deal with this issue,” he said. “Why not have bylaw (officers) chalking tires and monitoring parking to collect data so that we have better information to base our decision on?”
Coun. Tanya Ducharme supported Schmalz’s proposal, seconding his motion.
For many years prior to 2010, Creston town council had declared July and August to be metered parking “holidays” to encourage tourists to stop in the downtown core. Last year, the free summer parking was not offered after council chose to keep parking meter revenue flowing into town coffers.