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Council under siege over paid parking

Small town charm was in very short supply in Banff council chambers as residents opposed to paid parking took advantage of a public forum to air their complaints, Monday (July 21).

Small town charm was in very short supply in Banff council chambers as residents opposed to paid parking took advantage of a public forum to air their complaints, Monday (July 21).

Alphabetically, comments and attitudes of the standing room only crowd ranged from accusatory and belligerent to strident and venomous; comments that prompted an exasperated Councillor Stavros Karlos to drop an F-bomb during the proceedings.

Alanna Pettigrew, spokesperson for Banff Residents Against Paid Parking, started off the proceedings by saying her group had collected 1,370 names on a petition against paid parking, which sparked loud applause – “more than any of you received in the last election. Clearly, the mindset has not changed.”

Pettigrew said the petition will be presented to Town CAO Robert Earl within days, as per the Municipal Government Act, and she requested council rescind a motion for a paid parking trial on several lots in the tourist town. She also suggested the group will require a plebiscite, much like in 2000, when a vote halted a paid parking plan.

“We would like council to take the high road and rescind it’s decision on their own. You have that choice today. But we believe a plebiscite needs to be held before a decision is taken to correct this mistake now.”

Pettigrew also questioned council’s intention to use the trial as a “soft start” on paid parking. “What does this mean? A way to push through, no matter what?”

Resident Greg Christou thanked the two councillors who voted against a paid parking trial, Grant Canning and Ted Christensen, but said the remainder of council, “is trying to push this down our throats like a totalitarian society.”

Christensen suggested a community committee be formed to study the parking issue.

Mayor Karen Sorensen, who was forced to wield a gavel regularly to try and instill some order, said “there seems to be mistrust about a trial. We’ll go out to the community after. Personally, I’m trying to see some real data.”

Resident Cynthia Anderson said the parking issue is twofold; parking and increased special events in Banff.

“The two issues contradict each other. Why allow more events to take up parking? The events cause mayhem with parking and noise.

“Why are we so concerned with visitor experience? We allow the town to destroy the experience and serve athletes.”

Many of the raucous crowd gathered tossed out comments questioning statistics of the number of vehicles in town, asked how many commuters from Canmore were part of the issue, suggested parkades and intercept parking were better solutions, yelled out that the petition would simply be thrown out and on several occasions suggested councillors “should get a spine” and overturn paid parking decisions.

Sorensen responded by saying, “we actually are trying to do things to improve the situation.”

At that point, Karlos said, “I’m not surprised at the veracity of the opposition. I am surprised that you know each and every one of us up here and you seem to think we are trying to f*** this town over.”

Karlos’ comment sparked loud jeers and catcalls.

“We are trying to do our very best in dealing with issues in the community,” he said, and apologized for his outburst to those gathered. “There is so much vehicular flow; it’s increased so dramatically since the ’80s. It’s created mega problems and one of the options would be mega structures. We’re all doing our best.

“We are trying things. Status quo is not OK. We need to try and fix the problem.”

Former councillor Ossi Treutler Jr. said the present council should, “stop wasting time on makeshift solutions and build a parkade.”

Resident Ian Mackie said the issue goes back to the 1960s when a Parks Canada study showed a parkade should be built behind the Mount Royal. He didn’t have a cost figure for that time, but said now it’s pegged at $18 million “If you don’t get on with the job, it’ll be $36 or $48 million. You’ve got to get that parkade built.

“I admire you people on council, I’ve been on many myself. But 84 per cent don’t want this to happen and you don’t pay attention. That’s an error. I’m a little disappointed that so many people are trying to force something down the throats of the people. If you don’t support the people you serve, you should hand in your resignation. The same goes for administration.”

Resident Jon Whelan raised the issue of how many vehicles are moving through town on busy days and suggested 10,000, not 20,000 is the correct number. He said stats he’s seen suggest 10,000 enter and 10,000 leave Banff on busy days, not 20,000.

He also pointed out that at the time of the Banff Refreshing project, a parkade was tabbed at $5.5 million and said it would be “political suicide” for present council members if they didn’t backtrack on paid parking.

“My first choice would be an intercept lot, but if it’s a parkade, it’s time to bite the bullet. Parks should feel guilty about this and they should be donating funds. They could give the land at Bumper’s to the Town of Banff.”

Whelan also said council has lost credibility with townspeople. “The more permanent types don’t have faith. You could make a motion today to cancel the trial period of paid parking.”

In the end, Sorensen said the possibility of building a parkade will be before council in fall during budget deliberations.

“It is none of our intentions to do anything that would long-term negatively impact the town,” said Karlos. “Give the trial until October. It’s a one-time trial; if it does not work, it does not work.”

Rocky Mountain Outlook

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