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No paid parking for Elora and Fergus ... this year

While staff say paid parking is a key component to funding future parking infrastructure, some councillors and residents are not as eager to adopt their recommendations
Parking in downtown Elora.

CENTRE WELLINGTON – Paid parking isn't headed for downtown Fergus and Elora in 2024 but that doesn't mean it won't be implemented in the future.  

A hot topic during last night's council meeting, staff clarified that paid parking is not a part of the township's new Municipal Downtown Parking Strategy Report's 2024 recommendations and this year's proposed parking implementation plan will mainly focus on maintaining the township's parking enforcement and shuttle program. 

According to staff, the remaining items listed in the strategy, including paid parking, will be brought forward during pre-2025 budget meetings to give staff time to assess the impacts of each initiative, the associated cost and the funding plan. 

"Just so the public's clear, essentially 2024 will still be status quo in terms of what we've done in the past year and how we deal with parking," said Mayor Shawn Watters, during the meeting. "We're utilizing this year to sort of look at where we go in the future." 

Staff will also bring a report to council in May investigating whether the township can exclusively administer its parking enforcement in 2024 as Wellington County currently retains 27 per cent of the revenue. 

This means that while the township generated over $151,000 in parking enforcement revenue in 2023, approximately $41,000 was retained by the county.

Previous parking enforcement funding and an anticipated grant from Wellington County are recommended to fund the 2024 implementation items and a funding plan for anything beyond 2024 will be provided at a later date. 

Here is a total list of the contracts and/or agreements approved for implementation in 2024 as a part of the report:

  • Parking enforcement services
  • Shuttle operations services
  • Joint use agreements for the use of private parking spaces
  • Transitioning to enforcement administration outside of the county structure

"By no means are we looking to formally adopt the strategy or implement paid parking and 2024. That's a future discussion for council," said CAO Dan Wilson, during the meeting. 

But while Coun. Bronwynne Wilton said she feels comfortable with the staff's implementation recommendations for 2024, she was one of several councillors who were less sure about the 2025 plans.

Specifically talking about the paid parking recommendations, Wilton said she feels Fergus and Elora need to be treated differently as Fergus' number of visitors and types of services warrant something "quite different." 

"(Fergus) is a little more (groups of) local people going downtown to see their lawyer, see an optometrist and things like that. So it's a little different nature," said Wilton.

A presentation to the Economic Prosperity & Growth Council Advisory Committee earlier this month shared a similar general concern about the introduction of paid parking in downtown Fergus and Elora, specifically on the impact to township residents having to pay for parking and the impact on downtown businesses as there is a fear that business will leave the downtown core for locations with free parking.

"I do hear from my community often and they'll say, Lisa, we shouldn't have to pay for tourism in our taxes (but) that is why we're doing this parking strategy," said Coun. Lisa MacDonald, during the meeting. "We're looking for places to offset those costs."

Coun. Jennifer Adams also asked for an investigation into additional shuttle spots for residents rather than just typical tourist spots as the shuttle's ridership increased significantly from May to September in 2023. The shuttle route is currently being reviewed by staff. 

In a similar vein, Wilton said she was looking forward to when the Active Transportation study comes out as she believes it will be really helpful to improve pedestrian and cycling safety while "getting people out of cars and freeing up parking space in our downtowns." 

However, staff warned downtown Fergus and Elora currently have a 90 per cent auto modal split, with the other 10 per cent including walking, cycling, and County Transit and the proposed parking strategy is only anticipated to see a two per cent decrease in these numbers between now and 2041. 

Coun. Denis Craddock didn't attend the meeting and Coun. Kim Jefferson couldn't participate in the discussion due to her owning a downtown business. 

The full report is available here

Isabel Buckmaster is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for GuelphToday. LJI is a federally-funded program.

About the Author: Isabel Buckmaster, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Isabel Buckmaster covers Wellington County under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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