Paid beachside parking raked in cash last summer, Norfolk County council hears

Norfolk County’s controversial paid parking program made even more money this summer than in 2022.

But did charging to park by the beach in Port Dover, Turkey Point and Long Point achieve the pilot project’s stated goal of encouraging more turnover of parking spaces by local businesses?

The jury’s still out on that, Norfolk councillors heard at Wednesday’s meeting.

In 2023, motorists paid $4 hourly to park near the beach from June 15 to Sept. 5 between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Turkey Point was included in the pilot after opting out last year, and more spots were added in Long Point.

That led to a jump in revenue from $158,000 in 2022 to just over $239,000 this summer.

In addition, bylaw officers issued 831 tickets that garnered $47,350 in paid fines — with $3,375 still outstanding — which is up from $33,000 in recouped fines last year.

After subtracting operating costs, the county netted a $93,000 surplus this year after making around $57,500 last year.

Previous to 2022, all parking in Norfolk had been free, with time limits in some areas.

Were the county to charge for parking next year with the locations and cost unchanged, the profit margin would be even higher, since all pay stations and signage has been purchased, council heard.

The company that provided the pay stations still needs to submit a comprehensive “Curb IQ” report in the new year. That report will include usage data broken down by zones and peak times, which will better indicate whether paid parking motivates beachgoers to not leave their cars by the lake all day, taking up spots used by patrons of local stores and restaurants.

Coun. Tom Masschaele, whose ward includes Long Point, said the “vast majority” of feedback he heard from constituents regarding paid parking was “very positive.”

“I think we are definitely on the right track,” Masschaele said.

But in Port Dover, residents and business owners were “very stressed,” said Coun. Adam Veri.

“It’s really disruptive and causing a lot of difficulties for businesses,” Veri said, adding some long-standing business owners told him 2023 was “the worst summer they’d ever had, aside from COVID.”

Whether that can be pinned on paid parking is unclear, Veri admitted.

But he said business owners ended up fielding complaints from drivers frustrated by the pay stations, and residents told him side streets further from the beach were clogged with cars.

Seeing as ticketing proved so successful, with 95 per cent of drivers paying up, Veri wondered aloud if granting motorists three free hours and then pouncing on their cars with a hefty fine would be more effective and cheaper than running the pay stations and paying a staff member to oversee the program.

“Perhaps there’s a better way to generate revenue and solve some of the (parking) issues in Port Dover,” Veri said.

Mayor Amy Martin wants staff to devise a road map that would steer the county away from paid street parking altogether once enough money is generated to fund other parking solutions, such as additional county-owned parking lots.

Norfolk currently has the pilot program’s $150,650 surplus parked in a reserve fund.

J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator