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Council rejects parking lot expansion plan

Council voted against a motion to add up to 14 new parking spots in the municipal parking lot on Patricia Street (pictured here), April 18.  P. Clarke photo

Council voted against a motion to add up to 14 new parking spots in the municipal parking lot on Patricia Street (pictured here), April 18. P. Clarke photo

A plan to add up to 14 more parking spots in a municipal parking lot on Patricia Street was rejected by council, April 18.

Councillors voted 4-1 against the motion arguing the municipality should wait for the town’s transportation master plan to be completed in February 2018 before making such a decision.

“I’d like the information from our traffic study to define whether this is indeed a reasonable approach to deal with some of the parking issues in town,” said Coun. Gilbert Wall.

Councillors Helen Kelleher-Empey, Rico Damota and Brian Nesbitt all voted against the motion.

“As much as I’m torn and know we need more parking, I’m inclined to agree with councillor Wall,” said Kelleher-Empey. “If we’re paying all this money for a traffic study then I think we should wait.”

By voting against the motion council essentially rejected two other motions before they were brought forward, including a $210,000 capital expenditure to expand the parking lot and a motion to designate three of the parking stalls specifically for the Jasper Downtown Hostel.

The money will remain in the parking authority’s restricted reserve fund, which currently has about $251,000, for future parking projects.

Coun. Dwain Wacko was the only councillor to vote in favour of the parking lot expansion.

“I can’t image that the traffic study is going to come to any other conclusion other than we need more parking,” said Wacko.

Coun. Wall agreed, but said there was no way of knowing what the recommendations could entail.

“I have no doubt that the study is going to come back with some kind of parking plan, but for instance, if their recommendation is a multi-level parking facility on that parking lot it makes our decision right now rather problematic.”

One of the main reasons the proposal was originally brought forward was to help alleviate parking congestion in the downtown core and help the Jasper Downtown Hostel meet its parking requirements. The hostel is currently adding 30 new beds to its facility and will have a total of 60 beds once construction is complete.

To accommodate its extra guests, the hostel is required to have 18 parking stalls.

Nine of those parking stalls were originally supposed to be located on the hostel’s property, with four stalls located in the back and five stalls in the front, including three “sub-standard” stalls and a tandem stall.

The other nine stalls were paid for in 2015 and 2016 to the parking authority in lieu of an actual stall.

“The idea of the (parking authority) is that people pay into it when they don’t have onsite parking with the premise that we will create parking in the community,” said Mark Fercho, the town’s chief administrative officer.

Despite receiving Parks Canada’s approval, administration rejected the hostel’s parking proposal arguing  the five stalls in front of the building would require vehicles to frequently cross a busy sidewalk.

In an effort to try and resolve the problem, Fercho recommended leasing three of the parking stalls exclusively to the hostel.

That didn’t sit well with council when it was first brought up at the end of March and remained a contentious issue during the council meeting on April 18.

The hostel’s parking issue will now go back to the Planning and Development Advisory Committee (PDAC) to try and find a solution that works for everyone.

Mayor Richard Ireland and Coun. Vonna Arsenault were not in attendance for the meeting.

Paul Clarke

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