With the Midland parking woes solved by council and ready to subside, MidlandToday took to the streets to see what the overall consensus was from those most directly affected: the businesses.
Several downtown merchants spoke off the record, expressing varying degrees of general appreciation for the parking resolution. On the record, a few merchants said they were quite pleased with the end result.
Dawn Owen, owner of Panache Spa & Hair Salon, praised council’s approval of the multiple parking changes recommended by town staff.
“We’ve had a horrendous time with customers coming in being so wound up and complaining ‘they (parking stations) won’t work, they don’t work, they won’t take their money or cards’. They were coming in late for their appointments, and they were just so cross and angry with the whole situation,” said Owen, adding that there was a noticeable change in customers since the announcement.
“It’s just what we need at this time. We really do. Some happy customers and happy business people.”
The downtown Midland BIA held a meeting at Royal Tea on King Street prior to the regular meeting of council, anticipating that council would accept the changes.
In addition to the switch from pay-by-plate parking to pay-by-display, other key approvals included: free parking seven days per week in all downtown parking lots, excluding the harbour; free parking in December; free resident parking at Pete Pettersen boat launch; paid on-street parking six days per week at the current rate of $1 per hour; an increase to the harbour rate to $1.50 per hour; expansion of paid parking to Bayshore Drive; and seasonal boat-slip parking passes at the harbour, at $99 per season effective 2023.
Roberta Douglas is an events committee helper and voting member of the BIA, as well as the owner of Royal Tea; she noticed the difference in commerce go from plentiful to sparse, and back to plentiful following the most recent decision.
“I think it will make the people of Midland very happy that want to come down shopping, as well as the businesses,” said Douglas, “because it will allow people to come down much happier that they have their free parking back, and promote and shop our downtown shops.
Glen Canning, co-owner of The Elegant Gourmet, approved of many of the changes but has an issue with paid on-street parking during Saturdays which traditionally have been a free parking day.
“Saturday’s important to us; it’s not just another place to grab money,” Canning stated. “So no, I disagree with the idea of extending paid parking to the weekends. It has always been traditionally free, and people are used to that. We do compete against the Home Depot, Rona, the malls; this puts us at a competitive disadvantage.”
The sentiment was also shared by Sandy Dunsford of Georgian Bay Books, who noted: “We’re going to see a decrease in the number of people wandering around downtown on Saturdays.”
Canning, a former council member of Midland, related that Barrie years ago had increased paid parking on Saturdays which, he said, was the cause of at least two businesses shutting down in its downtown core along with reduced commerce overall.
The shopping experience in downtown Midland had affected The Elegant Gourmet over the past year, Canning recalled.
“I had a lot of regular customers that simply stopped showing up. And when I would bump into them in other places, they would tell me they stopped coming downtown because they were frustrated with the machines, frustrated with the interface, and frustrated with the decisions that had been made," said Canning.
“During the pause in paid parking, a bunch of them came back; it was nice to see them again. We’ll see how this next change affects us,” Canning said.
Free parking will continue to be available until Sept. 15 as implementation of the new configuration is made and communicated to the public. Options to pay for parking will include coin, tap with debit or credit cards, and payment through the Hotspot mobile app.
The full parking system details are available in the July 13 council agenda on the town of Midland website.
Further information on pay-by-plate parking in downtown Midland is available on the Town of Midland website.
Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca