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CRD parks committee rejects new Greater Victoria parking fees – again

More arguments against fee hikes, pay parking at nine parks, brought forward by committee members
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Soloman and Zev Nagler enjoy time on the beach at Witty’s Lagoon Regional Park on a summer day. The Capital Regional District is in the process of determining whether to institute parking fees at this and eight other CRD parks. (Black Press Media file photo)

The idea of using seasonal paid parking in nine additional Capital Regional District parks has been shelved.

After defeating motions that would have seen new parking fees implemented in nine parks, and gradually increasing fees at Thetis Lake and Sooke Potholes parks – the only two without free parking – CRD parks committee members voted unanimously Wednesday on a motion that ultimately pushed fee discussions into the regional parks strategic planning process.

Focusing on the fact property taxes, not parking revenue, makes up the vast majority of the operating funding for the parks system, Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt’s motion took the ‘yes or no’ decision away from instituting new fees and broadened the recommendation. Not only did it call for an endorsement of the appropriateness of using tax money to fund parks, it directed staff to report back on additional parking revenue options, “with a view toward maintaining accessibility for diverse parks users and ensuring fairness for users across the regional parks system.”

RELATED STORY: Greater Victoria politicians ditch plan for $7 daily parking at Thetis Lake

Parks that were on the list of nine recommended by CRD staff for seasonal parking fees in 2022 were Devonian, East Sooke, Elk/Beaver Lake, Francis/King, Horth Hill, Matheson Lake, Mill Hill, Mount Work and Witty’s Lagoon.

The recommended schedule called for 2021 parking fees at Thetis Lake and Sooke Potholes to be $2 for two hours or less, $4 per day and $30 for the season. Those rates would follow at the nine new parks the following year and all would rise to $7 a day and $60 a year by 2023.

“I can’t imagine pushing this through without any consultation,” said View Royal Mayor David Screech, whose municipality is home to Thetis Lake Park. While the current $2.25/day rates at Thetis are a “token” amount, he said, “if you look at $7 for a family or $60 a year, that’s a whole other issue.”

Island View Beach in Central Saanich, and Albert Head Lagoon in Metchosin were not on the list of nine parks identified for possible fees as their parking lots are not on CRD land. The report called for discussions with those respective municipalities in 2021 about the options, but Central Saanich council voted unanimously Monday to oppose parking fees for the beachfront park.

RELATED STORY: Proposed parking fees for Island View Beach under fire

CRD staff had brought forward a revenue generation strategy last November, but were sent back to the drawing board by the committee. Directors asked for revisions including options for lower fee increases, short-term paid parking, gradual or accelerated paid parking plans and the revenue implications of year-round paid parking.

Parking revenue accounts for approximately $200,000 in a total parks budget of about $14 million, directors heard. Seasonal paid parking at Thetis, Sooke and the nine other parks could generate an additional $1.9 million a year. But Larisa Hutchison, CRD general manager of parks and environmental services, called that figure “very much an estimate,” made without knowledge of how the public might respond, especially to fees being instituted in the nine new parks.


 

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