Campbell River’s Pier St. merchants want to pull plug on the two-hour parking ‘shuffle’

Shortening on-street parking from 2-hour to 1-hour is under consideration as part of the remedy

The City of Campbell River is looking to make some changes to the parking situation on Pier Street.

At this week’s public meeting, council received two separate letters complaining about the parking in the downtown area, one of which came from Phyllis Titus, president of the Pier Street Association, about how the current two-hour parking limit, “is creating a situation that is restricting customer parking and access to local business.”

Blair McLean, who owns property on Pier Street, says in his letter that for the first time in 30 years, both units in his building will be vacant as of Jan. 31.

“My merchants have complained bitterly about this,” McLean says. “Especially the two-hour designation on the street and in (Robert) Ostler Park that creates the two-hour shuffle.”

The two-hour shuffle McLean is referring to is the idea that office workers in the area will park in a two-hour parking spot and move their vehicle periodically to avoid getting fined. There are also concerns that the $15 fine currently in place doesn’t do enough to deter people from overstaying their welcome.

“We’ve heard that some people understand when the parking attendant comes by,” Coun. Colleen Evans agreed. “So they’re moving their car – or multiple cars – timed to when the parking attendant comes by.”

Evans, who also serves as executive director of the Campbell River Chamber of Commerce, says the parking issues “have been percolating for a while,” and the influx of office-type businesses along Pier Street over the years has led to a significant change in the parking needs in the area. Pier Street used to be primarily a retail area, she says, “and now people have longer-term appointments and we have other non-service-type businesses residing there,” many of which have parking needs that a retail business would not.

“Shorter term (parking) could be beneficial for the retail businesses, but what would that mean for the others?” Evans asked rhetorically. “I think we should have an open discussion about what that impact might be.”

Evans asked for city staff to consult the businesses in the area and compile a report – including possible solutions – and bring back for council’s consideration. But Coun. Ron Kerr said they could make one easy move right now that would make a difference.

“I think this is an issue where we have to support our retail merchants,” Kerr said. “This issue could be studied to death, but I think this is the time where we need to start moving forward. Pier Street is out of line with the rest of Shoppers Row. You’ve got one-hour parking along the one side of Shoppers Row and then all of a sudden it comes to two-hour parking on Pier Street. It needs action.

“There are 11 parking signs along the south side of the highway there. It would be a very quick job to change them from two-hour to one-hour, and that could affect change very quickly.”

“Although I agree that would be a quick solution – and that may ultimately be what the recommendation comes forward as – it feels a little heavy handed to me, even though it may turn out to be a positive move,” Evans said. “There are other businesses in that area that should be consulted. Consultation needs to be part of this.”

Coun. Charlie Cornfield said he would also like staff to look at ways to increase the total number of parking spots available to the public, not just how long people could park in the ones that are already there, which was added to the staff request from council.

Kerr’s motion to implement one-hour parking on one side of the road immediately was defeated, but the report from staff was requested to be back in front of council at the Feb. 19 meeting so they could start making decisions and implement them as soon as possible following that meeting.