British Columbia

Vancouver Island mayor wants more parking lots downtown

The City of Langford is buying residential properties downtown and turning them into surface parking lots in a bid to keep to keep parking free.

'If your population grows 20 per cent, well you better grow your parking lots 20 per cent'

This parking lot is situated just off Goldstream Avenue, Langford's main street downtown. The city wants to ensure there's enough lots to accommodate a growing population. (Google Maps)

Vancouver Island's City of Langford is buying residential properties downtown and turning them into surface parking lots in a bid to keep parking free. 

The city, which is part of the Capital Regional District, recently snapped up one house and has approached several other properties with offers based on market price, as new high-rise developments — including an 11-story residential building — are poised to bring more residents downtown.

Mayor Stew Young says it's a prudent investment for a booming population.

Langford's population grew from 29,228 in 2011 to 35,342 in 2016 — a 20.9-per-cent jump — according to Statistics Canada.

"If your population grows 20 per cent, well you better grow your parking lots 20 per cent," Young told All Points West host Jason D'Souza.

Listen to the full interview with Mayor Stew Young.

Catering to businesses

Langford has long maintained a free-parking policy. 

More than 20 years ago, the city bought three lots at an average cost of $100,000 to $200,000, Young said. It paid an additional $100,000 to build 97 parking stalls on the lots.

Young said local businesses pay three times the residential tax rate and provide 35 per cent of the city's income. That money is being used to buy the new lots. 

Young pointed to high parking costs in Victoria, which he said deters residents from shopping downtown.

"Our own residents have told me time and time again, they don't want to get in their car to come to downtown Langford and then go pay money just to go park and shop in a business."

Young refuted claims that the city is promoting car use and preventing densification downtown. Many locals works in trades, he said.

"There may not be a job in the downtown core," he said. "They need vehicles. They need to go to work. They need to be able to make a living."

'The city relies on cars'

Residents are mixed on Young's stance.

The city has introduced bike lanes and is working on improving bus service. But Young said it's not realistic to expect most residents to bike.

"When you go downtown and you go somewhere and the parking lots are full and you're driving around in circles, you're using a lot of gas just to find a parking spot."

The city is asking developers to create parking spaces as part of rezoning agreements. It also collects fees from new developments, which go toward a parking fund.

"If overnight I thought that we were actually going to have a reduction in car use, then Langford would take a different tact," Young said.

With files from CBC's All Points West