Tags

, , ,

While reviewing the council meeting video of this past Tuesday I was astounded to hear the comments of Mayor McGarvey regarding parking and Trestle Brewing Company (Trestle). I think he showed poor judgement in how he handled the discussion. What is going on?

You can watch the session at this link on YouTube – the action starts at 2:21:43.

Councillor Bachman raised a fair proposal to defer a decision, with a waiver, for two years while things could be worked out. Either Council could revisit the fee in lieu of parking by-law, the company could join and be accepted by the DBA, or the company would pay the required fee.

Rather than consider the suggestion and its implication the Mayor chose to suggest the Councillor did not understand the process. As a rookie, Councillor Bachman deferred to the Mayor. I would have liked to have seen him try and pull that on Councillor Keith, who was strangely silent.

Let’s be clear ‘everyone loves Chris’ and I am among them. But this decision by Council is a precedent setting decision. Can other businesses who paid a fee in lieu of parking now ask for a refund? What was the reason for the exception? The Mayor offered no support for waiving the requirement.

Don’t ask for permission, beg for forgiveness. And make sure the Mayor is there to cover you.

The Mayor’s actions perhaps can be explained by a bit of tiredness; there was more than an hour of deputations earlier in the meeting that will require difficult decisions. And I’m sure he has a heavy schedule with work and his provincial obligations. But, that’s an excuse and not a reason for his behaviour. I have no issue with the Council’s decision, they are elected to make decisions like this. Rather my concern is how the Mayor handled the meeting and his treatment of a councillor who disagreed with what was obviously his preferred, or the most expedient, decision.

The Mayor said that this parking item had been in process for some time and that there was no need for this type of surprise. Yes – but! Staff’s recommendation only was provided on Friday, about two business days before the meeting. The whole issue that $40,000 was at stake was not presented or discussed at the public meeting held two weeks earlier. I think there would have been more comment had the public been informed of the ‘gift’ that was being requested. At this point there is absolutely no reason for the Trestle Brewing Company to join the Parry Sound DBA, they received what they wanted and will be able to avoid the additional financial responsibilities that come with DBA membership.

Councillor Bachman’s suggestion was not a surprise to me at least. We had happened to cross paths at Hillcrest Cemetery the Saturday before the meeting after I had read the council agenda. I was attending an interment and she was out for a run. Let’s discuss the underlying reasoning behind her proposal.

If you establish a business or a residence you are required to provide for appropriate parking. There are two choices, you can provide the proscribed number of parking spots or you can pay a fee in lieu of the parking. There was similar topic before Council perhaps five years ago when an apartment conversion was done in the downtown and the landlord hoped to get a waiver for the parking obligations. I’m pretty sure Council didn’t grant it. It was a little different because the parking would be required overnight and that would cause an issue with snow removal and similar services.

In the case of Trestle Brewing Company, the additional 25 spots were required because they opened patio seating. The parking number was based on the number of seats in this expansion. The patio though is likely to be open or used from perhaps mid-May to mid-October, tourist season. The rest of the year that parking would not be used or required. That would suggest there was some basis for exempting in part Trestle’s parking requirement.

What I have seen to date is that there are very few people sitting in the patio area. That may be because the business does not yet need the extra capacity. It could be that the business never expects to use that extra capacity but wanted to give patrons a place to sit closer to the water, or to spread out the crowd. If this is the case the existing parking is tight but manageable. Then again, it’s possible that the business will be inundated with customers using all of the available seats and cars will be parked up and down Great North Road blocking views and possibly creating safety issues. Or people will start parking at other businesses in the area. There is little or no on street parking in the area at present.

The suggestion to provide Trestle with a two-year waiver of the requirement to provide parking or pay the full fee seems reasonable. Perhaps there will be no issue and the patio seating will offer patrons options on where to sit and not double the number of folks there at any given time. Or, it may be a real issue with business booming and the Town needing to somehow provide additional parking in the area, at taxpayers’ expense, to manage safety and congestion issues. Or, Trestle could be accepted into the DBA and there would no longer be an issue of a parking penalty, although there might still be a parking issue that would hit the Town’s taxpayers. Or perhaps it’s a 50-50 and the Town would need to find a compromise that fits the situation. Parry Sound is a small town and we need to be flexible. A two-year window would have provided everyone involved, especially the taxpayers and other businesses in similar situations, the opportunity to create a solution that best fit the situation.

Mayor McGarvey can blame me for the suggestion. After sitting through, and watching, about two and a half terms of Council deliberate on a wide variety of issues I know that Councillor Bachman’s suggestion was not out of line. She was reflecting her own, and at least one other taxpayer’s suggestion. I will take the blame for the suggestion. I can tell when I’m being misled, even when it comes to council procedures.

Mayor McGarvey owes Councillor Bachman a public apology for the way he treated her at the meeting. He has done it before. A mayor is there to preside and assist, not decide. Decisions are the responsibility of the councillors. It is likely that her suggestion would not have gained traction, but it deserved to be heard and properly processed. It seems however, that the decision had already been reached and her suggestion was an unnecessary distraction.