The Prince George Chamber of Commerce is continuing its push to increase enforcement of the city's current parking rules rather than introduce pay parking downtown in the lead up to Monday night's council debate on the issue.
In a letter included in the council agenda package, the chamber elaborated on a position outlined during a late-August committee of the whole meeting - namely that there is not a parking problem in the city but there is a parking enforcement problem.
Council will consider whether to reintroduce parking meters to the downtown - they were taken out in 2009 and replaced with a two-hour limit enforced by city employees - and charge $1 per hour for on-street parking, up from 25 cents per hour when they were previously in place.
Whether to purchase a parking meter system at a cost of $1.24 million will also be part of the discussion. The city is expecting to reap $350,000 per year and pay back the system's cost in five years with the ensuing surpluses going towards debt reduction.
But the chamber, which speaks for local businesses on various government issues, maintains pay parking "should never be about revenue generation for the city" but rather about "moving the vehicles along, to provide convenience parking for patrons in certain areas of the city."
Only once the downtown has seen an increase in the number of patrons in need of convenience parking should the city turn to pay parking and only as a way to control access, the chamber said.
The business group is calling for four hours of free parking within the downtown zone, supported by a "three strikes and you're towed rule" for violators and purchase of a licence plate recognition system to make enforcement more effective.
It also argued that increased collection of fines will result in fewer "bad debts" or unpaid fines and help cover the costs of enforcement.
"Annual shortfalls could be charged back to the property owners through a special levy on the downtown zone thereby completing the cost recovery process to the city," the chamber said.
Property owners would pass the costs on to the tenants and so, "put downtown merchants on a somewhat equal footing as those in the malls and other commercial zones in Prince George."
A common complaint has been downtown merchants get a break because they don't have to dedicate a portion of their properties to parking, in contrast to those located in the malls and shopping centres.
In another letter, former Downtown Business Improvement Association president Kirk Gable said downtown retailers reported as much as a 20-per-cent increase in revenues after the meters were removed.
"If paid parking was such a great idea, every shopping mall in North America would have it," he said.