Proceed to free parking, do not pass go

Downtown development shouldn't come at the expense of parking. With council set to discuss reducing downtown parking spaces, some of the area's business owners are starting to challenge the idea.

Downtown development shouldn’t come at the expense of parking.

With council set to discuss reducing downtown parking spaces, some of the area’s business owners are starting to challenge the idea.

“Let’s just say I have some thoughts on the issue that aren’t so favourable,” said Art Webster, owner of the North End Gallery.

“These bylaw changes would be very ineffective. It’ll just move the problem further away from Main Street.”

Monday, the city is presenting two separate bylaw amendments that will change parking requirements for downtown developers.

Currently, developers must provide parking within a 100-metre radius of a business. The city wants to change this to 300 metres.

And developers wanting to change the designation of their building to commercial won’t need to provide additional parking spaces. Currently they are required to do so.

“The idea is that typically these parking requirements aren’t for shoppers anyway, they’re more for the employees,” said Mike Ellis, senior planner for the city.

“This land is too valuable for parking.”

Motivation for the bylaw amendments came from public input as well as from the developers themselves, said Ellis.

When the owner of the Taku Building wanted to open Coast Mountain Sports in 2008 they were faced with the prospect of creating several new parking spaces at a cost of $17,000 per space.

Rather than build the spaces, they applied to the city for an exemption.

“It would have penalized the owners, who had a green building with a preserved historic front, for not having enough parking spaces,” said Ellis.

Business owners downtown, however aren’t convinced less parking is for the best.

“Business people around here are saying this (proposal) makes the city look ridiculous,” said Webster.

“At last week’s economic charette (put on by the city) the need for parking downtown was brought forward by many people to increase economic development and make the downtown more vibrant.”

Webster is pushing for a city-built parkade.

“It’s an issue I’ve brought up with the city several times before,” he said.

Bill Barney, who owns the Frame Shop, also believes the city should be discussing a new parkade rather than meddling with parking requirements.

People who want to shop downtown have nowhere to park,” said Barney.

Barney only has two spaces in front of his store for customers and he says these often aren’t even available.

“My parking spaces are overwhelmed by parking for YTG. They (government workers) park in front of my store and go to meetings,” he said.

He would like to see a parkade operated by the city behind the CIBC building on Second Avenue.

Sufficient parking is tied to quality of life in Whitehorse, said Ellis.

“People are interested in getting around easily and not having enough parking is considered a headache,” he said.

“We’re definitely hearing that people are concerned about this (proposal) … but the city is trying to encourage people to use different modes of transportation.”

Contact Vivian Belik at