The Town of Orangeville is rolling it back a bit after catching people off guard by starting to issue tickets for those exceeding two-hour parking limits on evenings and weekends.
The rules against parking for longer than two hours have always been in place but not enforced, leading to people being unconcerned about how long they’re parked during those hours. Some weren’t even aware the two-hour rule existed.
“The two-hour limit is not new,” explained Coun. Lisa Post. “This came into place after paid parking was eliminated, to deter people from parking on Broadway for a whole day.”
After the hiring of two additional bylaw officers, which allowed for the creation of evening and weekend shifts for the first time, the town was able to start enforcing the bylaw.
The move caught a number of people and businesses off guard, leading to complaints about tickets being received.
“To just start ticketing without any kind of notice to businesses and residents that it would be happening was not really fair,” said Alison Scheel, general manager of the BIA. “Residents and people aren’t used to it.”
Scheel said she feels a bylaw that issues a two-hour limit, particularly on evenings and weekends when there is no strain on parking, is more likely to harm businesses and restaurants in the downtown core.
“They’re ticketing people who are just trying to support local businesses, and that’s not really going to benefit anybody,” said Scheel. “Very rarely do you go downtown on a Thursday night after 5 p.m. and all the parking is taken.”
Another issue, Scheel noted, doesn’t necessarily lay with the need for the enforcement, but the way in which the bylaw itself is written.
“It’s not easy for the town; they’re trying their best and they’re doing what they have to — they’re following the letter of the bylaw itself,” said Scheel. “The way it’s written, they either have to enforce all of it or none of it.”
For many people dining at downtown restaurants, getting their hair done, or if they have mobility issues, a two-hour parking limit isn’t necessarily feasible.
In the case of employees in businesses like restaurants, parking on the road when there’s no demand for spaces comes down to a safety issue.
Scheel pointed to a specific situation she was made aware of, where a female employee wasn’t comfortable parking in the municipal lots due to the fact that she finishes work at night and there is not much lighting.
“She felt more comfortable walking along the street to get to her car than through a dark parking lot,” explained Scheel.
The two-hour limit was established to prevent people from parking all day, to allow more people to access shops for shorter stops along Broadway.
“From an enforcement perspective, if we can get people to move their cars within that two-hour time frame, we can free up more parking in the long term,” said Post.
Council’s goal was not to cause harm to downtown businesses, but help them, said Post. With that in mind, council voted to pass a moratorium on the parking bylaw until Jan. 11
“It was put in place to give business owners the opportunity to communicate this to their customers,” said Post. “That six weeks will hopefully give them more than enough time for that.”
The moratorium does not apply to overnight parking. Beginning on Dec.1, vehicles parking overnight will still be ticketed under the winter parking ban.
Scheel said she would have preferred to see the moratorium to apply only for evenings and weekends. Her concern is that with no limits whatsoever during this period, people will abuse it, as they have in the past.
“It’s good that people aren’t going to get tickets and that businesses are going to lose customers because they’re getting tickets,” said Scheel.
“But it also means it’s likely people will park all day. Especially during the Christmas season when people are going to be desperate for parking spaces to get into the stores.”
Sometime during the next six weeks, the BIA board will be meeting to discuss what changes, if any, should be made. Should the BIA reach the conclusion that the bylaw needs changes, that will be presented to council.
“It’s complicated, and it’s not an easy solution,” said Scheel.
Post noted that figuring out the best way to address all the parking issues is definitely on the minds of council.
“I know that there is frustration and that sometimes municipal parking is full, and I hope that we can address that through our term of council,” said Post. “It’s something we’re already talking about.”
Tabitha Wells/Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Orangeville Banner