Residents in Waterloo Region can ride ION for free until Canada Day, but if you’re planning on leaving your vehicle Conestoga Mall, it could cost you more than you planned.

That’s because mall security has been handing out notices to those who are parking in the lot but not visiting the mall.

They say the lot is private property.

“It kinda shocked me,” says Brenda Weber, who took her granddaughters on their first LRT ride Wednesday. “There’s a lot of parking at the mall, so I don’t see the problem.”

Representatives at Conestoga Mall say the notices are not tickets.

Instead they’re calling the notices “warnings” to inform drivers that the parking lot isn’t for commuters.

But the Region of Waterloo disputes that statement.

They say they had an agreement with mall for a consultation period for ION’s launch.

“We thought we had an agreement as far as the parking was concerned,” says regional councilor Tom Galloway. “They would monitor it and if there were issues then we would work out a solution.”

Galloway says he’s looking into the matter.

“They may have jumped the gun a bit, I don’t know. But it’s their property and they can do with it as they wish.”

Karl Ditoro, the mall’s general manager, says the parking lot is not set up for long-term parking.

“We understand that riders are learning about parking accessibility along the new LRT route, and will continue to work with the Region of Waterloo while upholding our responsibility to our stakeholders and our shoppers.”

One LRT rider thinks the parking issue should have been resolved before launch day.

“They’re trying to encourage the train for people to get on, and how can you do that if you’re not allowed to park in the public area? That’s ridiculous!”

Another rider lives out of town and her only option is to park-and-ride.

“I think it’s terrible,” says Valerie Taves. “I think it’s great to promote the LRT and I think people should be able to park wherever the free parking it. I thought this was free parking.”

Parking isn’t a problem at the other end of the ION line.

The region built a 200-spot parking lot at Fairview Park Mall in Kitchener.

“We knew that we needed a parking facility because we knew we were going to have a lot more parking and riding going on down there,” says Galloway.

But there wasn’t originally a plan for Conestoga Mall.

“It’s quite possible where we may have a solution, where we lease a certain number of spaces from them that are either marked or not marked,” he says. “That’s so the mall feels there’s some kind of compensation for that parking.”

That decision will have to be reached between both the mall and the region.