Petition circulating against pay parking in village 

Subway owners attributes business decline to new parking fees

Roughly 40 people have already signed a petition in Subway calling on council to rethink its pay parking strategy.

"We have a lot of upset customers," said Paul Mann, owner of the sub franchise.

Looking at his numbers for the last month, Mann said they have declined and he attributes that not only to the new pay parking on all four levels of the conference centre but also the increase in fees to park from $1 per hour to $2 at the surface lot.

That's why he has joined a group of businesses organizing a petition in the hopes of exerting some political pressure on Whistler's municipal decision makers.

In addition to the paper petitions in various village businesses, there is now an online petition at www.freewhistlerparking.com.

"It's a cheap money grab by the municipality," said Nathan McLeod, principal of Whistler Wired Vacations.

"Whistler's prosperity is dependent on tourism. This is counter-productive to that."

McLeod is one of the forces behind the petition to council.

He questions whether people will stop for a sub or a slice of pizza or a coffee if they have to shell out money to park. He also questions if people will drive up from the Lower Mainland knowing they have to shell out money to park.

"(People) will change their plans," he said.

That seems to go against the drive to have locals mixing with tourists in the village to create a vibrant, exciting gathering place for all.

It's not just the conference centre parking that has Mann and McLeod worried. It's the future plans for the day skier lots that will see three of the five lots transformed to pay parking.

"It's bad for my business, bad for Whistler in general," said McLeod.

Mann suggested a happy medium - a way for locals to park with a 15 minute grace period, or reserving several spots on the surface lot specifically for customers of those businesses beside Subway.

"As long as people don't have to pay to come in," he said.

The pay parking increases were implemented last month in addition to the new parking meters as one of the ways to offset the $3 million municipal budget shortfall and help "decrease the impact on Whistler residential and business taxes," according to the municipality's website.

The parking revenues from the conference centre and on Main Street, which has also seen a doubling of the hourly rate fee, are expected to bring in almost $400,000 for the remainder of 2009.

When asked to comment about the petition, Mayor Ken Melamed said council's job is to listen to the community and he said they can continue to talk about the pros and cons of pay parking.

Said Melamed: "I love it when people get involved in their community and express their opinions."

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