Just a week before the Resort Municipality of Whistler is expected to announce changes to its pay parking regime, Whistler businesses are blasting the initiative as a destructive force on the local economy.
Pique spoke to business owners in various industries including food and beverage, retail, ski and snowboard rentals and the local movie theatre in advance of an expected announcement on pay parking next week.
The owners interviewed, unanimously reported a drop in business since the Resort Municipality of Whistler implemented pay parking in Day Lots 1, 2 and 3 in June 2010.
Jeff Coombs, the owner of McCoo's and McCoo's Too, stores that sell winter clothing and sporting equipment, was perhaps the most blunt of all. He said the municipality's implementation of pay parking was "ridiculous" and "offensive" to Whistler businesses.
"It's an inconvenience," he said. "For anyone that has a history of coming up to Whistler, it's in the way, it's an intrusion. They have to do something different and inconvenient to the pattern they've had in the past."
The Resort Municipality of Whistler first announced the implementation of pay parking in April 2009, when it began charging for parking in the underground lot at the Whistler Conference Centre.
Around the same time it said it would start charging for parking in Day Skier Lots 1, 2 and 3, which are located between Whistler Village and the Upper Village. Parking remains free at Lots 4 and 5, as well as at Base II and Creekside. Whistler Blackcomb carries out day-to-day operations on the Day Skier Lots such as snow clearing and traffic management.
The initiative came after ownership of the parking lots was transferred to the municipality from the province as part of an agreement for it also to manage a debris barrier that spans Fitzsimmons Creek and keeps sediment and rocks from blocking its flows. Pay parking revenues over the next 20 years are expected to cover the cost of constructing the barrier as well as provide $500,000 annually for transit programs.
Pay parking, however, hasn't drawn quite the revenues it expected. Bob MacPherson, general manager of community life, said at a December 2010 Whistler council meeting that the municipality is pulling in enough money to cover operating costs for the lots but not enough to pay for the transit programs it hoped to fund.
For more from local businesses about pay parking read next week's Pique.