CANMORE – Bylaw officers have so far handed out 46 parking tickets to drivers who have violated the Town’s new early morning parking restrictions behind Save-on-Foods.
The new rules, which prohibit parking between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., were approved by council in May in a bid to address the increasing number of people camping overnight in the area behind the grocery store.
Greg Burt, manager of protective services, said peace officers began conducting their patrols on June 5 after spending a couple of weeks with outreach staff to inform people about the new rules.
“We didn’t want to catch anybody off guard, but we wanted to be clear that when peace officers showed up in the morning that tickets would be issued in that area,” said Burt.
He said 80 to 85 per cent of the people his officers have encountered are passing through Town, while the remainder are people who are living and working in Canmore.
In those cases, he said he often gives people a warning before encouraging them to contact the Town’s seasonal outreach worker, who was recently hired to better understand the issue and identify long-term solutions.
“Overall it’s been positive interactions with us,” said Burt. “When we’re in the panhandle lot we’re viewing it no different than when someone is in a two-hour parking zone, or a no parking zone.”
He said his officers conduct three to four patrols a week in the area in addition to responding to public complaints about people camping overnight in their vehicles elsewhere in the community. He said a parking ticket costs $90 unless it is paid within seven days it then costs $45.
“We’ve started to receive complaints of people sleeping in their vehicles or parking their RVs on River Road and also on Kananaskis Way,” said Burt. “The approach we’re taking in those areas, because it’s not purely parking contrary to a sign, is to knock on doors, wake people up and see why they are there and what their story is.”
He said they also run the licence plate of each vehicle they come across to determine if they have already received a warning, however so far none of the vehicles they’ve run have received a warning.
In addition to enforcing the Town’s new parking rules, his officers have also been counting the number of RVs and camper vans in Elevation Place, Home Hardware and the downtown lots.
The Town is also keeping track of the vacancy rate at Wapiti Campground.
“We don’t have the numbers this year, but if we look back historically over the last couple of years, typically we would only have the municipal campground full on the long weekends, so I would bet there would be occupancy at this point during the week,” said Andreas Comeau, public works manager.
Mayor John Borrowman asked at the June committee of the whole meeting how the Town is dealing with people camping in their vehicles on private property, such as behind the Home Hardware and Nutter's locations at the intersection of Main Street and Railway Avenue.
Burt said in those cases it becomes an issue of trespassing, however from an enforcement standpoint the property must be fenced or clearly state the parking lot is for customers only.
If it’s not signed, Burt said an agent for that property can serve a verbal or written notice informing people they are trespassing. If they fail to leave they can then contact the RCMP and under the trespassing act fine someone $285.