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May. 20, 2022 | Friday
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Parking officers just doing job, town says
A parking enforcement officer tickets a bus driver for standing in a zone designated for horse carriages on King Street. (Dariya Baiguzhiyeva/Niagara Now)

Parking enforcement officers are simply enforcing the law, some Niagara-on-the-Lake councillors say in response to resident complaints about a crackdown on parking in town.

Some residents think the municipality is going too far.

Virgil resident Arthur Woskinski said he understands if someone was parking on the street every night or all the time or if someone was blocking an emergency vehicle, but when people park on the street at night when they have guests or friends visiting, ticketing them doesn’t make sense to him.

“ ‘Why are they (the town) doing that?’ is a question for them. Do we need the money?” he said. “It just seems excessive.”

Wosinski also questioned why service industry workers, who work in Old Town and have been parking at the old Parliament Oak school for years, have been ticketed lately.

“What has changed? Is there some incident, something occurred? People have to park somewhere to go to work,” he said.

The town parking enforcement officers are just out doing what they were hired to do, said Lord Mayor Betty Disero. “They’re doing their job and they’re doing it with gusto,” she said.

Coun. Norm Arsenault said there used to be one or two parking enforcement officers, but now there are several who were hired for the summer.

“They’re just enforcing the law,” he said, adding he doesn’t “have an issue with it.”

Arsenault’s response was echoed by Coun. Wendy Cheropita, who said the only thing that has changed in parking enforcement is that there is one additional parking enforcement officer compared to last year.

“We haven’t changed anything, we haven’t changed our parking bylaw. Although because of all the complaints, there is going to be some kind of discussion about this,” Cheropita said.

Coun. Erwin Wiens shared the same sentiment, saying he doesn’t think anything has changed. A lot of bylaws are complaint-driven, he said, suggesting residents talk to each other first before complaining to the town.

“It would be helpful if people tried to find a resolution prior to calling the town. That would really help us because every time you call the town, it affects staff, it costs money, tax dollars,” he said.

There are currently four seasonal parking officers – Natalie Thomson, William Moreau, Rachel Munro and Christopher Botts.

Commenting on the instances of service workers being ticketed for parking at the former Parliament Oak school, Coun. Allan Bisback said if an area has proper signage but the enforcement hasn’t been applied there before, it doesn’t mean it’s legal to park there.

“I’m not so sure the parking enforcement is any different this year than last year,” he told The Lake Report. “We need to be careful and calm that we don’t overreact, but I’ve asked staff to look at signage around Parliament Oak as soon as possible.”

Coun. Gary Burroughs said he personally thinks the service workers shouldn’t be ticketed while Coun. Clare Cameron suggested that the increase of residents being concerned could be because the town started enforcing its bylaws.

“There’s probably a better communication that can be done in advance … what the bylaw includes and means to residents,” she said. “There’s probably a better job we can do at communicating that.”

NOTL resident Stephen Oprici said he doesn’t think anyone should get away with not paying for parking, but said enforcement should be reasonable.

Solutions to a “chronic” parking problem in Old Town should be addressed as soon as possible, he said, suggesting the town form a steering committee consisting of the mayor, senior staff responsible for dealing with parking issues, the supervisor of bylaw enforcement, at least two parking officers and one councillor. The committee could work on alleviating parking congestion, he said.

The recent spat of service workers being ticketed means there is a lack of communication between the town and residents, said Oprici.

“Communication can be a paramount subject for this steering committee to address because if there were proper signage affixed in those areas, then people wouldn’t take the risk of parking there,” he told The Lake Report.

He also suggested placing two bike racks behind the Court House on Queen Street to accommodate downtown employees and tourists. Oprici also said downtown business owners and merchants should promote the use of bikes, scooters and motorcycles to their local employees.

The new president of the NOTL Chamber of Commerce, Eduardo Lafforgue, said he needs to know more about the parking issue before he can comment, but he said supporting long-term sustainable solutions would be one of his goals.

“What we do is we support our members,” Lafforgue told The Lake Report. “My procedure right now is to serve the members, members’ interests, but we are not policymakers.”