Charlottetown business group leader calls parking fee hike 'slap on the face'

Two Charlottetown business groups are saying this is not the right time to boost downtown parking fees, with the owner of Peakes Quay calling the move “a slap on the face.”

Groups urge city to defer planned increase until at least year-end

Liam Dolan, who owns Peakes Quay, is calling on the City of Charlottetown to defer parking fee increases until at least the end of 2020. (CBC)

Two Charlottetown business groups are saying this is not the right time to boost downtown parking fees, with the owner of Peakes Quay calling the move "a slap on the face."

Liam Dolan, who's also the president of Downtown Charlottetown Inc., says the organization has been working to boost consumer confidence in local stores and restaurants ever since the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions started to lift.

"At this stage, we do not need an increase in parking to discourage people from coming to downtown Charlottetown."

Both meter and parkade rates are set to increase Oct. 1, with metered parking rising from $1.50 to $2 an hour. The new parkade rates will be $1.75 an hour, $12.25 a day and $150 a month, up from the current rates of $1.25 an hour, $8.75 a day and $115 a month. 

Dolan said small businesses are "very vulnerable" and have lost a considerable amount of revenue during the coronavirus crisis. 

He said representatives from his group have asked to have the planned parking fee increase put on hold until at least Dec. 31, after the Christmas shopping season ends. 

The Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce also objects to parking fees going up next week, and is calling on the city to reverse the decision.

"The raised meter rates are a major deterrent for individuals to travel downtown to shop, eat and do business, while additional parking garage fees cause further financial strain for the many local businesses just trying to get by," CEO Penny Walsh-McGuire said in a statement.

Local retailers and restaurants are 'very vulnerable' in the wake of the COVID-19 slowdown, says the president of Downtown Charlottetown Inc. (John Robertson/CBC)

On Tuesday, a city news release noted that the fee increases would allow Charlottetown to "continue to maintain and upgrade its parking infrastructure." 

City cites 'miscommunication,' offers special meeting

Dolan also said city officials promised business leaders further consultations before any change came into effect, and that did not happen.

Late Wednesday, Charlottetown chief administrative officer Peter Kelly acknowledged such a meeting should have been held. 

"Due to a miscommunication internally, the Finance, Audit and Tendering committee was not made aware of the commitment to consult with Downtown Charlottetown Inc. prior to moving forward with the parking rate increases originally announced in the 2020-21 budget in April," Kelly said in an email to CBC News.

He added that a special meeting of council would be held at 5 p.m. Thursday "to discuss the issue further."

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