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Kitchener residents urge city to pump the brakes on new parking fees at downtown lot during council meeting

A sign advises drivers of the resumption of parking lot fees at the Bramm Street Yards lot in Kitchener. (CTV News Kitchener/Colton Wiens) A sign advises drivers of the resumption of parking lot fees at the Bramm Street Yards lot in Kitchener. (CTV News Kitchener/Colton Wiens)
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Some Kitchener condo residents are raising concerns over newly introduced fees at a downtown lot, pointing to inconsistencies in parking rules.

“We've got concerns with residents, there seems to be a problem with [how] the parking lots in the downtown core are being defined and how it's paid or not paid, and it just makes sense to me at this point to bring them in alignment,” said Coun. Debbie Chapman.

Last month, the city brought in paid evening and weekend parking at the previously free Bramm Street surface lot.

City staff say the lot was free during the pandemic response due to funding from the province but it was now reverting back.

“During COVID, there was a decision to relieve some of the parking requirements at of the lots, but that was a temporary interim measure during COVID that was offset by safe restart funding that the province was providing,”said Justin Readman, general manager of development services.

But delegates at Monday night’s council meeting called the move unfair, saying other lots in the downtown core are still free on evenings and weekends.

“The ways that it is limiting family and friends visits, the short notice and lack of procedural fairness in the implementation of this shift and the importance of free parking to support the economic revitalization of the businesses on our block,” said delegate, Kaylee Perez.

“There has not been data collected on this lot based on who was utilizing it during the pandemic,” Readman said. “When the economic development was created, there was data that was collected in advance of that on lots in the downtown, on lots that were closer to commercial businesses at the time and economic development pays of subsidy to offset that parking during the evenings and on Saturdays.”

City staff adding that the rest of the downtown is part of a BIA subsidy program meant to help businesses struggling during the LRT construction and the Bramm lot did not fall into the BIA boundary, despite being in the city’s downtown boundary.

“There are a couple different boundaries of the downtown,” Readman said. “One of them is the BIA boundary and so that was the original intent of the parking subsidy for after hours and Saturdays, it was a partnership with the BIA that we were looking at the subsidy process for. This lot is outside of the BIA boundary, but it is within the downtown boundary. So at the time, there was no commercial businesses by the location. We haven't heard any complaints from the commercial businesses that are located in the building regarding the accessibility of free parking. So council would need to make a decision on whether they're considering expanding this program outside of the BIA boundary which is different distinction as whether it is in the downtown or not.”

Chapman says there is a discrepancy in what is happening at the lot as well as in the rest of the downtown, something she believes will continue to confuse residents and the community if it is not addressed.

“We can talk about the whole parking area and that's huge. We can talk about budgets and these other things, but in the meantime we have this parking lot that is not in sync with the other parking lots in the downtown core.”

Council says they will revisit the issue at their next meeting.

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