Hold onto your quarters, parking in Niagara-on-the-Lake just got a wee bit pricier.
NOTL’s council voted to up the cost of parking in all lots by 25 cents per hour for 2024.
The proposed increase had councillors chatting for almost 20 minutes when it came up in a talk about increased fees for town services at a meeting Dec. 12.
“My only concern is we’re upping parking rates in a system that doesn’t currently work,” said Coun. Tim Balasiuk.
Fire chief Jay Plato disagreed with Balasiuk’s assessment of the town’s parking system.
“I would not necessarily use those exact words,” he said. “There are just pieces of it that are not as user-friendly as they definitely could be.”
Most town parking meters do not give people the option to pay with credit cards.
Instead, people can pay parking fees with coins or Honk Mobile, a parking payment mobile app.
This limitation generated significant criticism from residents and visitors last summer.
Despite people struggling to pay for parking, Plato said the town “still did fairly well from a financial standpoint” in 2023.
The town will soon take bids from private consultants for a contract to replace the town’s parking meters.
Coun. Sandra O’Connor pitched the parking fee increases and also suggested the town undertake a full review of its service fees.
The town charges people for numerous services. For example, it charges a fee for processing planning applications, hunting licences, sign permits and short-term rental licenses.
It also collects membership fees from people who exercise at the community centre.
The fitness memberships, specifically, are going up 10 per cent in 2024, while planning application fees are going up 4.6 per cent, according to a staff report.
The town currently charges adult residents $22.75 a month to use the community fitness centre. It charges $17.25 for students and $15.25 a month for seniors.
Every planning application comes at a different price, but two of the more costly applications are for zoning and official plan amendments.
Applications for these are going from $9,100 to $9,520 for official plan amendments, and from $8,570 to $8,965 for zoning amendments.
“Rate adjustments are proposed to reflect the ongoing inflationary increase in the cost of service delivery,” the report stated.
Though the town is paying for big studies, which may impact some service rates, councillors were not interested when O’Connor suggested they conduct a comprehensive review of the fee structures.
“I don’t want to double our work for the exact same outcome at the end,” said Coun. Adriana Vizzari.
She was one of three councillors to say the rates would be assessed as part of the several studies which O’Connor worried would impact service fees.