Nelson City council agreed at its July 12 meeting to make six changes to parking rules in the city.
The new bylaw amendments were put forward as some of the more basic, easily implemented recommendations of council’s 55-page Downtown Parking Strategy that passed in March 2021.
1. Double the amount of bike parking
Until now, in new multi-unit residential buildings, the city has required .5 bicycle parking spaces per unit. This will increase to one parking space per unit, in response to a demand for more bike parking in Nelson, according to planner Matt Kuziak who presented the changes to council for their decision.
He said increasing bike parking is a trend, and cited Coquitlam’s 1.2 spaces per unit, and Canmore’s one-to-three per unit depending on unit size.
2. Cash-in-lieu payments for new off-street residential parking
Currently if the owners of single detached homes want to add a suite to their house, they are required to provide an off-street parking space for the suite’s occupants. An alternative, in the downtown area, has been to pay a one-time $10,000 fee.
Now council has reduced that fee to $3,000 and expanded its use through the city.
This option is offered, Kuziak said, because for some homes providing another parking space could present an expensive or complicated landscaping problem.
Kuziak said the goal of the providing two options (create a parking spot or paying a $3,000 fee) is to find a balance between getting vehicles off the street and creating more housing.
3. Parking for small cars only
In multi-unit residential developments, it is not required for developers to provide small spaces for small cars, but they often do. The rule has been that developers may include 30 per cent of spaces smaller: 4.8 metres rather than the usual 5.3 metres. Now, up to 50 per cent of spaces may be small.
Kuziak said census data shows an increasing number of small cars and a decreasing number of large vehicles in Nelson from 2016 to 2020. Other communities, such as Kelowna, Vancouver, Richmond and Smithers have recently made similar changes.
4. Parking permits for long vehicles
In residential areas with two- or four-hour limits – in Nelson this means mostly in lower Uphill – residents currently need a free residential parking permit for their street if they want to park longer than the limit. These permits will now be denied for vehicles longer than 6.5 metres. This includes the length of a vehicle and trailer or boat combined.
5. Parking permits for new multi-unit buildings
In residential areas with two- or four-hour parking limits, complimentary parking permits for residents will only be available to residents in buildings with fewer than six dwelling units. This takes the onus off the city, and places it on developers, for providing off-street parking for tenants. Kelowna, Calgary and Penticton were given as examples of cities in which residential parking permits are not issued to residents of large multi-unit buildings.
6. Winter-only parking permits
In winter, in two-and four-hour parking zones, some residents who normally park in their lane are forced to park on the street when their lanes are not cleared of snow. They will be given permits for street parking from December to February.
In response to the suggestion that this will make it even harder for snow clearing crews to clear the streets, Kuziak said it is a question of parking equity – people who have created their own parking spaces behind their houses should not be forced to park on the street and get ticketed for it.
The Downtown Parking Strategy
These six measures were among the 61 recommendations of the city’s Downtown Parking Strategy, which was based on a 2016 downtown employee survey, an extensive 2019 parking survey, and a 2019 business consultation. The parking strategy document can be found at https://bit.ly/3ciYwjq.
The 2019 public survey, which got 903 responses, indicated especially strong interest in improving transit, creating a park-and-ride, commuter parking outside the downtown, use of the parkade for day-rate commuter parking, upgrading cycling infrastructure, and improving the residential parking program in lower Uphill.
Kuziak presented five other changes to be proposed to council in the near future:
• Increase the resident parking fee from free to $40 per year.
• Explore and create commuter parking including park-and-ride.
• Increase parking fines for expired meters and for exceeding a two-hour limit.
• Increase payment method variety, including pay-by-phone for meters or to increase meter time from anywhere.
• Install electric vehicle charging stations in the parkade.