Niagara-on-the-Lake town council narrowly rejected a motion to stop enforcing a bylaw that puts a 12-hour limit on street parking to help residents of Niagara on the Green deal with ticketing issues.
The vote ended in a tie, in which case the motion was defeated.
Instead, town staff will report back to council on a possible solution using a permitting system.
“I’m hoping that it will be a long-term solution, not just a COVID solution,” Lord Mayor Betty Disero told The Lake Report.
Sandra Maxwell, a Niagara on the Green resident for 21 years, lives on Cole Crescent. She says her street voted to have the permit system on the street instead of the street parking that has been the focus of Niagara on the Green residents grief.
“Each household was allowed to purchase one parking permit a year. They pay 20 dollars for it, and as long as that permit is in the window of your car you’re allowed to park on the street,” Maxwell said.
And while that situation was good for the last 15 years, Maxwell says that even permit holding residents have gotten ticketed recently and a permit parking system is no magic bullet.
Steven Hardaker presented to council on behalf of the residents of Niagara on the Green who have been complaining about an increase in ticketing in their area.
Residents feel that they are being “unfairly targeted compared to other neighbourhoods in NOTL,” Hardaker told council.
He asked that the 12-hour parking limit be put on hold until the end of the pandemic to help residents who are “struggling financially and emotionally during these unprecedented times.”
“When you say end of the pandemic, give me a number just so we’re clear?” Disero asked Hardaker.
“That’s a bit of a hard number to give. I don’t want it to end when the stay-at-home order is lifted,” responded Hardaker.
Hardaker said the parking issue has been exacerbated by COVID-19.
“During the pre-pandemic, many residents left the neighbourhood during the day for work,” said Hardaker.
“However, many are now working from home and have done so for the past year so there is no longer an exodus of vehicles at the start of the workday.”
Tammy McCarthy, a Niagara on the Green resident for 15 years, said the town ticketing residents during a pandemic is “downright mean. Especially when we’re in a stay-at-home order.”
It’s not just the pandemic that has been causing parking problems in the community. Hardaker also said the community receives an unfair degree of bylaw enforcement due to its proximity with Niagara College.
“It was once stated to me by town staff that Niagara-on-the-Lake bylaw enforcement is under an agreement with Niagara College to enforce parking in their paid parking lot,” said Hardaker.
“So, when they complete their rounds at the college they come into the Niagara on the Green neighbourhood to proactively patrol and enforce the bylaw.”
Coun. Norm Arsenault asked Hardaker whether there were any long-term solutions to the ongoing parking complaints from the community.
“There is ongoing discussion about coming to the town about parking passes for street parking. There are also discussions about getting rid of that 12-hour restriction in the parking bylaw,” said Hardaker.
This comment prompted Arsenault to put forth a motion to do away with the parking bylaw.
Director of community and development services Craig Larmour said many residents would like to do away with the 12-hour parking limit. "But we also receive a large number of complaints from residents regarding cars parked for more than 12 hours,” he said.
“So, operationally it’s not just that our officers are out cruising for violations. We do receive a large number of complaints and not just in Niagara on the Green, but throughout the whole municipality.”
Coun. Allan Bisback asked Larmour what the implications would be of removing the bylaw only for Niagara on the Green and was met with a warning.
“That’s an interesting question. I don’t think that I’ve had to answer that before,” Larmour said.
“We would just caution you that, of course, consistency is usually preferred by the community at large,” chief administrator Marnie Cluckie said.
Disero questioned why the town is reluctant to take a nuanced approach to its bylaws.
“There are some bylaws, no question, that have to be for the whole town,” she said in an interview Tuesday.
“But there are some issues that are local to certain areas that we need to find a solution for.”
Coun. Erwin Wiens was staunchly against eliminating the bylaw and was concerned about the impact its removal would have on town enforcement.
Larmour told Wiens that if the bylaw were removed then the town “wouldn’t have a way of ticketing or responding to complaints.”
“I’m not going to support the motion because we’re getting complaints from both ends,” Wiens said.
“This is a big deal. This is a big, big issue. So, I’m going to sit tight for now and I’m not going to support it. Not because there’s not a problem there, but because I want the proper solution and that solution will come through our staff.”
Disero said removing a parking bylaw across the entire municipality without professional consultation was rash decision-making.
“It just, to me, seems not the right thing to do in my gut. It just doesn’t sound right to me,” Disero told councillors.
She also lamented the protracted engagement that this parking issue is turning out to be.
“I would have preferred to just tell staff to go and work out a solution with a permit system so they can park. Just go and work with the residents of Niagara on the Green so they can get it done,” Disero said.
The vote to remove the parking bylaw across the whole municipality was split down the middle. Disero, Wiens, Bisback and Coun. Clare Cameron voted against it, while Couns. Wendy Cheropita, Sandra O’Connor, John Wiens and Arsenault voted in favour.
Council instead asked town staff to look at permit solutions.
“This is at least going to get the ball rolling,” said Disero.
“It may take a little longer than everyone likes but we’ll hopefully get to a permanent solution.”
Evan Saunders, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report