Pay parking miscue upsets locals 

Monthly conference centre passes were sold before advertised date

The good news is that all of the people who showed up on Monday morning will still be able to purchase monthly passes for the Telus Whistler Conference Centre parking lot, after they were told by the municipality on Monday morning that the spots had already been sold - ahead of the date they were supposed to be available to the public.

Pay parking came into effect in the conference centre lot on Tuesday, Nov. 17.

The passes to the parkade on the lowest level of the conference centre were offered for $58 per month until Dec. 28, when the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) takes over the property to convert it into the Olympic Media Centre.

According to Kerri Gamble, who was in line on Monday morning, she had contacted the municipality several weeks earlier to find out when the monthly passes would be available. She was told to come in on Monday, but when she arrived she was told all of the spots had already been sold to the Aava Hotel across the road.

"Everyone (at the municipality) was very helpful, but they put ads in the paper saying 'pay parking, buy a pass,' and I called a few weeks ago to find out what the process would be. When I went in it changed and we were told we couldn't buy monthly passes," Gamble said.

The municipality is contacting all of the people in line on Monday to offer them passes for the same rate.

Bob MacPherson, general manager of community life at the municipality took responsibility for the issue.

"What happened is that I had a chance conversation with the owner of the Aava Hotel and they weren't going to have parking ready to open their hotel, and couldn't get an occupancy permit until they had parking in place," he said. "I said, 'gee, we have a parking area next door that's underutilized'... and we offered them parking to get their hotel open.

"Whatever transaction was worked out with the bylaw department, the intent was not to be the only monthly parking we sold that month but somehow that became the message internally."

The transaction went through about two weeks ago, long before the passes were offered to the public. MacPherson said they hope to make it up to people by offering the same deal to park on the P3 level, using a list put together by the bylaw department.

Gamble will be glad to get her pass, but was disappointed that it was so difficult - especially after all the controversy the first time pay parking was introduced last summer.

"Then the whole issue with pay parking came back with a recommendation and a solution, and then the municipality did the exact opposite," she said.

Nils Robinson also attempted to purchase a pass on Monday and was disappointed that a private company had jumped the line to purchase passes at a public parking facility.

"I am still distinctly unimpressed that the municipality chose to allow a hotel to purchase all the parking passes before they were available to the public," he wrote. "You'd think that after all the grief the muni got for introducing pay parking in the first place someone would have thought that it might not be a great idea to pull a stunt like this..."

Several employees at RBC Royal Bank also inquired about the spaces, and were told back in October that they would be available at 8 a.m. on Tuesday.

"So, at 8 a.m., when I walked up to the counter, I was surprised to hear that the passes were already sold since (they) weren't on sale prior to that," said Jon Decaigny.

At press time Decaigny was on a waitlist for passes.

VANOC will hold onto the conference centre parking area until the end of March, when the municipality will once again take over.




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