‘Downtown is going to suffer’: Lethbridge business owners oppose potential parking fine increase
It may only cost a handful of change to pay for parking in downtown Lethbridge but for those that don’t and get a ticket, they could be paying a hefty fine.
A new bylaw could double parking fines across the southern Alberta city from $25 to $50, with a $15 reduction for fines paid within a week.
“This is just one more thing we don’t need to deter people from supporting our local businesses,” said Levi Cox, owner of Catwalk Salon and Spa.
According to the city, Lethbridge has the lowest fines compared to other municipalities in the province.
The new bylaw doesn’t just target parking downtown.
“It’s not downtown parking alone that the fines are increasing – it’s for all traffic and parking violations in the bylaw,” said Ahmed Ali, traffic engineering and planning manager with the City of Lethbridge.
“We want to make this bylaw more of a deterrent for people who aren’t compliant with the bylaw.”
The recommendation for the bylaw change is part of the city’s 2023-26 Budget Approval.
Currently, there are three schedules for parking fines across the city, with $25, $30 and $50 fines.
The new bylaw would include all three schedules under the $50 fine.
“Every client’s experience, their anxiety increases as that meter runs out and we explain we can’t plug it until its expired, leaving you vulnerable to a ticket,” Cox said.
“How would you feel if you went to a big box store and you had to pay $10 just to get into that parking lot?
“Would you want to pay $10 to go to Costco, Walmart or to use the movie theatre at Park Place Mall? We’re already asking clients to plug a meter to shop down here, why penalize them with a $35 ticket?”
With cost of living on the rise and the COVID-19 pandemic, the Downtown BRZ believes this could be another blow to the heart of the city.
“We have been working so very hard to increase optimism and positivity around the downtown area. This doesn’t speak to the overall initiatives,” said Sarah Amies, executive director of the Downtown BRZ.
“We feel this is a complete step backwards when it comes to getting people downtown.”
“To put all this money into festival square and to try and entice people to come down and shop, the city is really putting a damper on that and I really do believe our local downtown is going to suffer,” added Lisa Thompkins, owner of Thompkins Jewellers.
The increase in fines is estimated to result in an additional revenue of $250,000 annually – a financial increase business owners say they won’t see.
Cox says it’s not only his customers who will be impacted.
“For all my employees, having to plug their meter throughout their work day, if they’re busy doing a facial or massage and you have to stop to plug the meter or get a $35 ticket that could eat up your whole earning wage very fast” Cox said.
“I have 22 staff and there’s only a certain number of eight-hour parking stalls that are filled up by 8 a.m. So, my staff have to go out every two hours to plug the meter and you can only re-plug a meter twice, so they have to move and find a new stall halfway through their shifts.”
Thompkins and Cox have created a petition for customers to sign who may be opposed to the increased parking fines.
Amies says the Downtown BRZ is writing a letter to council to oppose the bylaw.
“There has to be other ways to generate revenue for the city that could be explored before we double the parking fines,” Amies said.
Parking rates won’t be impacted by the bylaw.
City council will vote on the second and third reading of the bylaw at Tuesday’s meeting.
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