EDITORIAL: Communication key in hot rod tiff

Assumptions made by both sides in Royal Oak mall parking dispute

News readers have flooded our Facebook channels with comments supporting classic car buffs from around the region who for years have gathered for a regular Saturday social at the Royal Oak Shopping Centre.

The fact Robbins Parking specifically ticketed hot rods parked in the centre’s lot led vehicle owners – and most of those who read about the situation – to voice calls of discrimination against a well-behaved group whose presence actually attracted people to the suburban centre on a quiet shopping night.

That the dispute over the use of parking lot space came to a head smack in the middle of Greater Victoria’s wildly successful Northwest Deuce Days event was strictly coincidence. But the timing of the ticketing made for terrible optics for the mall’s operators.

As with every situation like this, however, there is more than one side to the story.

The centre’s property manager pointed out that the “car show,” despite being an informal gathering, has never been an authorized event at the mall and has been a source of concern for some time, from a parking and safety perspective.

To us, it sounds like a classic case of lack of communication between the mall operators and the vehicle owners, many of whom shop regularly at the centre on Saturday evenings and otherwise.

In any relationship, when two sides don’t communicate well, assumptions are often made that can dissolve into resentment. Such feelings can be avoided if problems are addressed when they first come up.

In this situation, unwitting merchants at the centre stand to lose business over a dispute in which they have no involvement, and that makes no sense.

If they hope to avoid a deterioration in their relationship with certain tenants and customers, the mall’s property managers need to find a way to make this otherwise very positive event work.

The car owners – unorganized as they claim to be – need to acknowledge their collective impact on the centre and work with property managers on a compromise solution if they plan to continue gathering there.