As Halifax regional council prepares to debate proposed increases for parking meter fees in the downtown core tomorrow night, councillors’ opinions on the issue’s magnitude seem mixed.
Dartmouth Centre Coun. Gloria McCluskey said she doesn’t favour the increases, as downtown businesses are struggling to keep up with the outskirt big-box stores as is. But she also said she doesn’t think the issue is a “big deal.”
“It really isn’t a big deal, but people perceive it to be,” McCluskey said.
“(They say), ‘Why do I have to pay to go down here, and now it’s even more.’”
That said, McCluskey thinks there are other ways to combat the municipality’s projected $32.4-million deficit, such as cutting councillors’ and staffs’ travel budgets.
She said it would be fair to call increasing the meter fees a “cash grab” from city hall.
Downtown Coun. Dawn Sloane takes a somewhat different view on the rate hikes. She said city hall has a responsibility to protect local “mom and pop” businesses against the draw of shopping centres like Dartmouth Crossing and Bayers Lake.
“It’s bad enough that we charge for parking in our downtown when all these other business areas (don’t),” she said. “To look at charging (more) for parking shows negative connotations for downtown. It basically says, ‘Why don’t you go park at a business park for free.’”
Sloane said the rate hikes are “low hanging fruit” in terms of methods to balance the books.
A staff report presented to council last week recommended increasing the Halifax parking meter rate to $2 from $1.50 for an hour, effective May 31. It almost recommends increasing the Dartmouth rate by the same amount, to $1.50 from $1.
If the rate hikes are approved, it would mean an extra $542,000 in the city’s coffers for 2010-11, and an estimated $650,000 annually.