Cobourg Council Passes Motion to Continue with Current Waterfront Parking Strategy

In City Hall

By Jeff Gard/Today’s Northumberland

Cobourg council passed a motion at its committee-of-the-whole meeting Tuesday night to continue with the same waterfront parking strategy for another year.

In considering a memo from Director of Public Works Laurie Wills regarding the 2022 Waterfront Parking Update and Public Feedback Review, council had two options to consider; provide direction to staff for any proposed changes to the waterfront parking strategy in 2023 or continue with the strategy for another year with additional communications and education to further promote discounted resident passes.

The report from Director Wills noted 485 people responded to a survey about the 2022 season. In a question about passes purchased, 32.6% of respondents said they purchased a Resident Waterfront Season Pass, 4.9% purchased an East Beach Waterfront Season Pass and 62.5% did not purchase a Resident Waterfront Seasonal Pass.

During the 2022 season, 1,081 resident waterfront season passes available for $40 were issued while there were 104 for the East Beach Waterfront Season Pass and 482 for the Waterfront Daily Pass.

There were many comments in the survey that suggested residents were not aware of the resident seasonal pass or its cost,” the report states. “Advertising in 2022 was delayed due to the unknown delivery date of parking infrastructure. Staff did not receive notice that machines would not be arriving in time for Victoria Day weekend until May 11 2022, so it was uncertain whether passes could be sold at all until after that date when it was decided to move the downtown machines to the waterfront. An investment in a marketing mailout would benefit all residents to better understand parking options and costs and would be funded by parking revenues.”

Another question asked respondents if they would support the implementation of a semi-discounted Waterfront Season Parking Pass for non-Cobourg residents. The results were 57.1% against and 42.9% in favour.

There were also comments in the survey that the $160 fine for parking tickets was too much. The report states approximately 2,685 parking tickets were issued within the waterfront area by bylaw enforcement officers from May 20 to Oct. 20 inclusive. The current status of those tickets are: 330 trials requested; 92 withdrawn, 352 warnings issued; 415 voided; 1,108 paid in full (within 15 days of parking infraction); 251 court (the town will receive the ticket total from the Provincial Offences office); and 137 paid at court (to be paid through the Provincial Offences office).

The estimated revenue generated is $278,640. “The revenue is estimated since there are still outstanding tickets that have not been settled yet with the County and also the software cannot separate tickets that are issued in the downtown vs waterfront parking areas,” the report states.

Revenue from passes from Victoria Day weekend to Thanksgiving weekend was $43,120 for Resident Waterfront Season Pass, $2,080 for the East Beach Resident Season Waterfront Pass and $19,280 for the Waterfront Daily Pass.

In terms of hourly payment revenue, Honk Mobile had 10,633 transactions for $129,273.12 and Pay & Display Machines had 41,530 transactions for $385,001.80.

The report states there were more savings transferred to the parking reserve ($355,717) in 2022 than from 2016 to 2021 combined and nearly the same for the contribution to parks/waterfront operations ($219,300).

Funds from the parking reserve will be utilized in 2023 to conduct a parking study that will consider future options for Cobourg when we can no longer rely on private lands for parking lots. It is expected that the outcome of the study will provide cost estimates and recommendations for Council to prepare a by-law for the dedication of parking reserve funds in order to secure a long range financial plan for the recommended solution and minimize the impact to tax payers.”

For 2023, the town’s communications strategy will be improved to reach residents in a number of ways, including through tax bill messaging, ‘Spring into Parking’ information sessions, a parking brochure, social media, public notices, the town’s website, posters, mailouts and more.

Councillor Miriam Mutton questioned the motion in front of council and sought clarity if it was an either-or scenario. Director Wills said that was the case and staff were not proposing any changes to the current parking strategy, but welcomed some direction from council should the members wish to direct staff.

The roll-out last year was quick, we didn’t get a lot of our marketing out in advance. It’s a big change, there was a lot of confusion about signage,” Wills said. “We got a lot of feedback of just people not understanding where they could park, what the passes were for and everything, so understandably there was a lot of changes and we think it would be beneficial for us to see it evolve over the next year…we’re open to input from council of course.

If there’s not any immediate action that we’re seeing from council to change anything or implement for this year, then we’re leaving everything status quo and we’ll see how it goes for another year now that there’s a lot more public awareness out there.”

Councillor Aaron Burchat said one thing he liked in the report was the alternative option to also add a visitor season pass.

We got a lot of comments from people in the surrounding areas, but I think this opens it actually up for essentially anyone and it would be online,” Burchat said. “It would be the $90 pass for three months (June to August) or for the $150 pass (May to October). Is the recommendation there…doing both options or just one of those options?”

Director Wills said the town couldn’t limit non-resident passes to just Northumberland County residents outside of Cobourg. It would stretch beyond the County borders.

The results of the survey didn’t indicate a lot of support for this, but I just wanted to provide a couple of pricing options in case that is something that council wants to implement.”

Mayor Lucas Cleveland, appearing remotely through video as did Deputy Mayor Nicole Beatty, said it seemed like an issue council members would have differing opinions on and asked CAO Tracey Vaughan if there’s an opportunity for council members to connect with her or other staff members individually to make suggestions. It’s an open-ended discussion, the mayor said, and he didn’t want to get into a brainstorming session as the time approached 10:45 p.m. for the committee-of-the-whole meeting which began at 6 p.m.

I think we just need to be mindful of the timeliness, given one of our challenges with the roll-out in the first year was our ability to have the messaging up front early enough so that residents understood what was playing out for the season so I think that would be my caution on how much time we actually have from a timeline perspective to make those changes,” Vaughan said.

Vaughan said there would be an opportunity to have conversations with her, Director Wills or Director of Legislative Services Brent Larmer before the motion comes back for ratification at Monday’s regular council meeting.

Councillor Brian Darling made a motion that council receive the report for information purposes and further that council approve the one-year extension to the waterfront parking strategy. The motion was carried, with Councillor Bureau voting against.

Earlier in the evening, resident Ted Williams made a delegation to council about parking issues. He also referred to a survey, now almost two years old he said, that was taken by 1,600 residents, adding that represents about one in 10 adults in Cobourg. The survey was created by the public, including seven members of a parks and recreation group and four others for a total of 11.

Polling people talk about random sampling and margins of error – this is a pretty accurate representation of what people want,” Williams said, pointing out the current parking regulations were approved by the previous council.

Williams referenced the addition of paid parking from the east end of the beach up to D’Arcy Street was a big issue for residents, not only for themselves but if they have visitors, including people to work on their property.

You always have to worry that they may get a $160 ticket,” he said.

In the survey, Williams said 31% were in favour of it, which means about 70% were against, but it passed through council anyway.

Williams also noted the “substantial increase in rates” last year as staff presented options to go from $2 per hour to either $3, $4 or $5 and council passed the third option.

If you go from $2 to $5 an hour, you have to have significant support from the public,” Williams said. “If you had 70 per cent or 80 per cent, you’d say ‘boy it looks like the public really wants to increase it,’ but the survey showed that 44 per cent wanted to increase and that’s not even a majority and yet it went to $5. I don’t think the town has the public mandate to increase it to $5.”

Williams also takes issue with the fines being $160 and compared that to being in Gananoque last summer and seeing someone receive a $10 parking ticket.

Jeff Gard
Author: Jeff Gard

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