City council’s decision to hike parking meter rates ahead of community budget consultations has some local business owners ticked off, but unsure what they can do to fight City Hall.
“I think they’ve decided and I don’t think we’re going to get anywhere,” says Bonnie Nilsen, owner of BLN Design, who started a petition last week to oppose the rate change.
Nilsen, who is disabled, says she’s concerned shoppers will be turned off by dollar-an-hour parking, especially those from out of town.
“For instance I’ve talked to people from Castlegar who will come and say, ‘well, I’m going to the mall,’” she says.
She’s also concerned that it will make it even harder for people with disabilities, living on tight incomes (like her) to get downtown to shop.
“It’s just too much to think about — one more increase.”
Anne Cavicchi, who owns Annie’s Boutique on Baker Street, has similar concerns.
“The number one complaint I hear from people when I ask them, ‘why don’t you shop downtown?’ is parking. It’s not the stores, it’s not prices. It’s parking,” she says.
“Now the reason’s going to be there’s not enough parking and if I do find a spot it’s more expensive.”
She’s keeping a copy of Nilsen’s petition by her till, and has written to all seven members of the Nelson council asking them to look at alternative solutions.
Cavicchi says council could, for example, make Baker Street one-way, and use the extra lane for more angle parking spaces.
“If they have that much more parking and that many more meters they may not have to put the rates up,” she says. “My guess is those meters will be full.”
While she’s been vocal in her opposition, Cavicchi says most of the people she talked to before council made their decision Monday weren’t even aware the option was on the table. And now that the decision’s been made, Nilsen thinks many Nelsonites will give up without a fight.
“I think there’s a few people that have just given up on getting the city to understand things,” she says. “I know I have.”
If a groundswell of opposition to the move does appear, Mayor John Dooley says council could revisit its parking meter decision, but adds they’ll still have to find the $300,000 the rate hike is expected to bring somewhere.
“There’s no question it would have to be made up,” he says. “So that’s what council would have to weigh right there.”