Moncton council rejects 365-space parking lot for Blue Cross building

A request to increase surface parking in downtown Moncton by the company that owns the Blue Cross Centre was rejected by city councillors in a 7-4 vote Tuesday. 

Slate Office REIT wanted to rezone 20 Record St., to allow a 365-space parking lot. It was rejected over concerns about the environment and how it could affect future requests to add more surface parking in a section of the city where such lots already accounts for about 40 per cent of the area. 

Jeremy Kaupp, a director of asset management with Slate, said the company needed the parking to retain Blue Cross Centre tenants and to allow for growth. 

The office complex along Main Street includes offices of Medavie Blue Cross, the Royal Bank of Canada, Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and Moncton's public library.

"I think the potential growth is imminent with the approval of this plan, otherwise they may look elsewhere," Kaupp told councillors before the vote. 

Kaupp left city hall immediately after the vote and didn't stop when reporters followed him outside to ask him questions.

Shane Magee/CBC

Jim Scott with Trace Planning and Design worked with Slate on its plans.

"It's unfortunate one of your biggest downtown building owners is not able to provide for their tenant base, and there will be a cost to that," Scott told reporters, later saying it could cause Slate to lose clients.

City staff had recommended approving the rezoning despite it going against city plans to reduce surface parking in favour of denser developments that incorporate parking garages.

Submitted/Slate

City plans also call for exploring a parking corporation to manage development of a parking garage, park-and-ride options and other parking solutions.

Staff recommended approving the parking lot for several years because the city has yet to make progress on those plans.

The pitch was met with resistance from when it first went to council in April. Coun. Paul Pellerin called it a "complete contradiction" to the city's message on surface parking parking.

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About a dozen people, some wearing green fabric squares pinned to their clothes, attended the meeting and applauded when the rezoning failed. 

Alex Arseneau said approving the parking lot would've been a step backward after councillors declared a climate emergency.

"We're really glad they stuck with what they said and it wasn't just some empty promise," the University of Moncton student told reporters.

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Lise Ethier donned a hospital-style mask as she urged councillors to support a healthy planet.

"More parking is more carbon, more carbon is no good," Ethier said.

Downtown Moncton Centre-ville Inc., an association of downtown businesses, raised concerns with the rezoning. In a letter to council, the group stated approval would set the precedent for more surface parking.

Heritage Resources Inc., a major property owner and developer, opposed the plan. It said the lot would create an "unfair competitive advantage" for a business over others facing similar pressures. 

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About 1,200 people work at the Blue Cross Centre. Slate said it has a waiting list for parking spaces that includes 500 vehicles.

Mayor Dawn Arnold said the city continues to have a car-obsessed mentality and that the parking lot issue shows the need for a change.