Nanaimo city councillors have changed their minds about taking away free long-term parking for disability permit holders.
On Monday night, councillors voted not to move forward with proposed changes to a parking bylaw that would have required disability permit holders to pay for parking in certain areas of the city after two hours.
The move came three weeks after council unanimously agreed to give three readings to the proposed amendments.
Since 1993, disability parking permit holders have had unlimited free parking in city-owned parkades.
However, under the proposed changes recommended by staff, permit holders would have only been allowed two hours of free parking before being required to pay the existing rates.
Staff had made the recommendations because there is a “small subset” of permit holders who have been taking advantage of the exemption by leaving their vehicles in parkades for months at a time.
According to a staff report, city staff identified 14 vehicles with disability parking permits that were being “stored” long-term at the Harbourfront and Port of Nanaimo Centre parkades. Those 14 vehicles, the report notes, represent $18,480 in lost annual revenue for the city, as a monthly parking pass at a city parkade is $110.
During Monday’s meeting, Coun. Tyler Brown said council was “a little hasty” with their previous decision to pass third reading. He said council received a lot of feedback from the public on the matter and that the decision not to move forward with the proposed changes is the right thing to do.
“I think this is the very responsible thing to do from council and from staff,” he said, adding that he appreciates how engaged the public was in the matter.
Brown also said there was a lot of negative feedback that was unfairly directed toward staff.
“I think it is important that people know that the buck stops with council,” he said. “We asked questions, staff provided answers and I don’t think, maybe, that we did the deep dive or the due diligence based on those answers. So, for future, I think if people are being overly critical of staff and it is a council decision and council made that decision, that criticism is more appropriately directed at mayor and council.”
Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog echoed Brown’s comments.
“I will take responsibility along with council…” he said. “It simply wasn’t given the consideration that it deserved.”
The matter has now been referred to staff, who will consider the issue during an upcoming transportation and mobility study of downtown Nanaimo.
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