Higher than expected parking revenues are fast flowing into municipal hall, bulking up municipal coffers these past seven weeks, but that's all about to change.
Bowing to popular demand, and as per their own election promises, council is rolling back pay parking in day lots 4 and 5, wiping out over $300,000 in potential revenue, if not more judging by the strong performance in the first month of operations.
It's not official yet, but if all goes according to council's plan free village parking will be back on December 21, the day after Tuesday's council meeting. After that time, the municipality will release information about how pass holders will be able to get rebates on their passes.
With that early Christmas present on the horizon, drivers from Emerald Estates to Surrey gave ready praise for council this week.
"I think what they've done is right," said Paul Sparrow of the Lower Mainland.
"After the cost of the season's pass, it didn't seem right (to charge for parking too)."
Sparrow has been to Whistler three times this season, parking at Creekside each time where it's free.
He prefers to ski on Blackcomb Mountain so after December 21, when the lots turn free again, he'll be parking back in the village and spending some time there after his day of skiing.
That's why Marty Taylor, general manager of the BrewHouse, is excited about the new parking changes — seeing more skiers and visitors and locals back in the village.
"Any time we see a situation where our guests can have a little bit of value added, I think it's great for everybody," he said. "And certainly pay parking was something that the community was torn over... I understand that things need to be paid for but it's a tough time right now here in the village and in Whistler and in the province and any time that there's an opportunity to catch a break, I think it's good. It doesn't always pay the bills but there are certainly some smiling faces I think going 'wow I don't have to shell out 10 bucks to park up there today.'"
And that's the rub.
While it may put smiles on the faces of local drivers and village business owners and regional skiers, it has added another layer of challenge to the already challenged municipal budget.
In a briefing memo to the new council to help make its decision, Bob MacPherson, general manager of community life at the municipality, outlined how after one month of operations, in November 2011, day lot revenue was 45 per cent higher than anticipated in the model.
More than $51,000 came in, excluding monthly passes, about $16,000 higher than anticipated on the books. At the same time more than 300 passes were sold with a value of $40,000.
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