Niel Doerksen had to park his truck illegally while renovating his new storefront. He and neighbouring businesses want to lease or buy parking spots on Lake Street from the city.

Niel Doerksen had to park his truck illegally while renovating his new storefront. He and neighbouring businesses want to lease or buy parking spots on Lake Street from the city.

Parking peeves businesses

A new Front Street business owner is hoping to resolve a long-festering parking issue that has vexed several previous tenants at his location.

A new Front Street business owner is hoping to resolve a long-festering parking issue that has vexed several previous tenants at his location.

Niel Doerksen, who this week opened West Kootenay Fire Safety Ltd., says he didn’t realize when he leased the storefront how much trouble he and his prospective customers would have finding a place to park.

The closest stalls are on Lake Street, which is metred on one side but free on the other. His store is on the free side, where people often park for long stretches.

“Their position is it’s city property, we can park here all day. And they can,” he says.

Although some neighbouring businesses have posted signs suggesting the spaces are for customers only, they are mostly unenforceable.

Doerksen has written to the city’s traffic committee, suggesting he and his neighbours be allowed to buy or lease the property, similar to a business around the corner.

“I have a lot of faith in the process,” he says. “But for a few years now it’s been a contentious issue. That’s one reason a lot of businesses have failed in the corner where I am: there’s no parking.”

Doerksen, who has also met with the mayor, says he’s simply trying to run a business while maintaining good relations with his neighbours.

“This is a problem I inherited. I just want to find a solution,” he says.

Two other business owners didn’t want to be quoted, but agreed with Doerksen’s assessment.

One said she wouldn’t have bought her building had she known what a hassle parking would be. In addition to being left in front of their businesses all day, some cars are pressed against their doors — making it difficult to get in or out.

They don’t see additional metres as a viable solution, because it would require adding a sidewalk and make parking near their own businesses an even bigger nuisance.

They would prefer to sign long-term leases or buy the property outright.

Mayor John Dooley, who sympathizes with them, says the issue first came to his attention about a year ago. At that time the city opted to do an inventory of similar situations.

“There’s no point doing one-offs, but having said that, this one is definitely front and centre and we need to deal with it,” he says.

Dooley confirms leasing is an option under consideration, and probably the one that would work best for the business owners.

“Our public works department is working on remedying that situation and accommodating everyone involved,” he says.