City council turned their back on a plan to implement paid parking in the downtown core.
A unanimous decision was made to not award a $1.2 million contract to Aparc Systems for the supply and installation of pay parking and licence-plate recognition equipment Monday night.
"In hindsight, with all the information I have it looks like I voted by shooting from the hip but only vaguely seeing the target," said Coun. Albert Koehler, regarding council's initial vote to reinstate paid parking.
The decision was postponed from a July 22 meeting, giving time for a committee of the whole meeting on Aug. 28 to get a technical briefing on the system from the proponents as well as hear opposition from local business groups.
The Downtown Business Improvement Association and Chamber of Commerce have both stressed that the answer to the parking issue downtown is not one to be solved by reinstating payment, but strengthening enforcement.
DBIA president Rod Holmes said he was pleasantly surprised by the "rather unexpected" result. "I think it's excellent council took the opportunity to take a few moments to have the sober second thought to do more research," he said. "They're here to represent the city of Prince George, so they're representing their public. I'm glad they took the opportunity and I strongly believe they made the right decision."
Derek Dougherty, Prince George Chamber of Commerce president agreed that the "business community couldn't be happier" with the vote.
In the future, he said he would like to see more consultation with stakeholders on such decisions. "There are a lot of stakeholders at play, we all have different ideas and some of them are good and I think we need to be heard."
Coun. Garth Frizzell said he and his colleagues were looking at the solution to the wrong problem. "For any number of these different reasons and, in addition, after hearing the will of the business community... we heard loud and clear this isn't something that Prince George supports and I don't support it either."
Coun. Dave Wilbur agreed with Frizzell that there wasn't enough statistical information to paint a true picture of what the parking situation is like downtown, though he said he believed licence plate recognition technology would help to solve a "substantial part of the problem."
Coun. Lyn Hall, who instigated the postponement said he doesn't believe there is a parking problem in the entire city centre, just a five-block radius. "I can pull up there there at quarter to eight in the morning and the street from Third Avenue on both sides between Vancouver and Victoria is plugged," he said, noting what was driving his decision was the capital expenditure of $1.2 million as well as a desire to see more opportunity for enforcement.
A lack of information on whether the system could be expanded to other areas of the city under the proposed contract helped lead Coun. Cameron Stolz to his decision to oppose the plan.
"I feel like I'm in a bit of a box with the [request for proposal] before us because it doesn't allow us to have a broader discussion and I have some real concerns around the RFP if it doesn't allow us to actually purchase additional units," said Stolz. "That just makes no sense to me."
Mayor Shari Green, who participated in the discussion via telephone expressed frustration over the discussion and said the group wasn't solving the problem, but "postponing the inevitable."
"As somebody who is intimately knowledgeable about this problem and has been for many, many years and originally brought this concept of free parking to the council table back in 2008 as I've said on several occasions, it's a bitter pill to swallow to say that I don't believe it was a successful project," Green said.
Council also voted in favour of staff investigating switching on-street parking on Second, Fifth and Seventh Avenues from parallel to angle stalls. Operations superintendent Bill Gaal said he expects a report to return to council in about two months.