Downtown Prince George doesn't have a parking problem, according to the local Chamber of Commerce. Instead, the issue is with enforcement of current parking rules.
Prince George Chamber of Commerce president Derek Dougherty said it's a fallacy that those abusing the system will pay and that real change can be made by adjusting bylaws.
The chamber was one of three community delegations addressing members of council during a special committee of the whole meeting Wednesday night to discuss the issue of pay parking.
Representatives from the Downtown Business Improvement Association (DBIA) and property management company Majestic Management also made presentations, all of which rebuffed the idea of bringing back payment as the solution to the problem parkers.
"Clearly, there is an abuse of the existing parking system," said DBIA president Rod Holmes, who said his organization has observed many cars with off-street parking permits visible in the windshield taking up on-street spaces.
However, he said the association doesn't feel it's the right time to bring back meters.
During the meeting, council also received a technical briefing on the pay-parking system offered by Aparc Systems, which submitted a bid for the installation of payment and licence-plate recognition equipment.
According to Aparc, one of the major reasons cities turn to pay parking is to improve traffic flow and discourage customers from taking up prime customer parking spaces.
The proponents presented their licence-plate recognition system being beneficial due to it eliminating the requirement for drivers to have to display a ticket in their windshield, remember or to have to walk back to their car to top up their parking if time is running short.
The licence plate system would mean any pay station could process an additional time request, or it could be handled remotely through a smartphone.
Businesses would also have the ability to offer parking validation either on site or in advance for those that operate on an appointment basis.
Staff have recommended awarding the Vancouver-based company with a contract worth about $1.06 million.
Council will make a decision about awarding the contract during the Sept. 23 council meeting after postponing the resolution from July 22 to accommodate an extra meeting for more information.
Coun. Lyn Hall initiated the postponement and said he was satisfied with the content of Wednesday's committee meeting, which allowed input from the proponents as well as community stakeholders.
"One of the cornerstones of our system is the enforcement," said Aparc executive vice president, Luke Kiefte.
"Even though there was a process back in 2011, my point was that not all of us had the opportunity to hear that public input process because it was prior to us being elected to council in the fall of 2011," said Hall. "For me, it hit the mark. It's what I was hoping would happen."
The committee didn't make any recommendations to council regarding whether or not to award the contract, nor did they debate the merits of the proposal.
"What I was looking for tonight was that public input, stakeholder input, then it would give me the opportunity, and other councillors, to go away and do our homework and come back," Hall added. "I think there'll be more debate on the 23rd around the item."
The committee did forward a recommendation to council for staff to look into converting the existing parallel stalls on Second, Fifth and Seventh Avenues to angle parking, after a suggestion from Majestic Management's Robert Hillhouse.
He estimated that if those roads were modified so that there were two lanes of traffic and angled parking, it would add about 184 on-street parking stalls downtown.