Friday, January 28, 2022

Meaford’s Obsession with Parking & Creating Problematic Solutions


Have you ever noticed how confusing so many signs are around town?

“Due to Covid, harbour customers are only allowed on the docks”, which literally meant boaters were not allowed into town, they were only allowed on the docks. I think the writer actually meant to say “… ONLY harbour customers are allowed on the docks”. Grammar matters.

My personal favourite is: “This is not an OFF-LEASH DOG AREA” accompanied by a green circle image. How many visitors have seen that green circle and the words ‘OFF LEASH’ thinking, “Oh great, it’s off-leash here!” Wouldn’t it be less ambiguous to say “Dogs must be leashed”?
How about the new signs (and bylaw) that popped up recently in Market Square? They’ve been so confusing that the town has replaced them three times already since November. For reference, this is the parking lot behind the Apple, and the row furthest from Meaford Hall, used mostly by tenants living in the Sykes Street walk-up apartments, and by the occasional patron stumbling out of the Leeky who decides to find a more responsible way home.

When first rolled out, a large sign with huge lettering read, “NEW! Odd days only!” and was installed in front of the row that used to read “Overnight parking this row only.” Everyone thought this meant – “Park here overnight on odd days only”.
But two weeks later, the sign was taken down, leaving behind a fine print sign that read, “No overnight parking in this row. Odd days only”. Wait, so we’re NOT allowed parking here overnight on odd days? Or are you ONLY allowed to park here overnight on odd days?

Confusion grew, and now the big metal signs have been replaced a third time to read, “No parking 2am – 6am, In this row on ‘Odd’ number calendar days”. How much tax money have we now spent on changing these hefty metal signs every month?

Why is this so confusing, you might ask. Would it surprise you to know that if you are parking for the night on an odd calendar day, you actually need to park in the row that says ‘No Parking on Odd Days”? Think about it.

Today is an odd day, which makes tomorrow an even day, which means you can’t park in the row that says not to park there on even days, so you in fact SHOULD park in the row that says “don’t park on odd days”, even though today IS an odd day.

The problem is rooted in a simple fact: people don’t relate to odd vs even days. They relate to days of the week (Monday, Tuesday, etc), and weekdays vs weekends. Think fast – is today an odd day or an even day?

And who is enforcing this? Since parking is only prohibited between 2 – 6am, the only way to enforce this is to pay a bylaw officer to patrol the Market Square parking lot and issue tickets in the middle of the night. How much is this graveyard shift costing Meaford taxpayers? And for what benefit?

Incidentally – there is a downtown business on Sykes Street that has been parking vehicles for decades on municipally owned land, and making a profitable business out of it, all while the town has turned a blind eye. Never once has the town issued this business a parking ticket.

Yet lowly apartment renters are now being threatened with tickets and towing, all because it’s simply impossible to comply with this new bylaw.

Let’s say you live in these said apartments. What happens when you’re too sick to get out of bed? Have a family emergency? What if you go away for a week on vacation? Party too hard and crash at your friend’s house? How can you be expected to move your car every day?

Do YOU move your car every single day, 365 days a year?

We’re also in a pandemic lockdown, and most of us either lost our jobs, or work from home, and have no reason to start our engines every day.

Moving your car a few metres every day is a great way to kill your car battery.

So now you need to take your car for a drive every day, even when you have nowhere to go. If half the people who live and park here (approx 20 out of 40 cars) are now taking an unnecessary daily 10km spin to warm up their engines and get their alternators going sufficiently so as not to kill their batteries, that adds up to a collective 6,000kms per month of unnecessary fuel consumption.

Didn’t Council recently declare a Climate Emergency? Or was that just for show?

When queried, staff declared, “it is not the Municipalities (sic) responsibly to provide adequate parking to owners of property nor their tenants” who must park in Market Square (Nov 18, 2021).

It is true that new and recent development proposals in the downtown core have been delayed and stymied by staff until building owners were able to purchase or build parking for new residential units (notice the new parking lot behind Stedman’s).

Yet despite years of precedent, no consideration is being given to grandfathering tenants already living in the many other historic apartments along Sykes who have no other place but Market Square to park, which they have done for years.

If Meaford will no longer reasonably accommodate tenant parking needs (and no, forcing people to move every day is not reasonable accommodation), then the town should be revoking all of the downtown residential apartment occupancy permits, and empty out all of the pesky people who need to park overnight at Market Square.

Meaford either needs to let people live here, or not. But for goodness sake, don’t just make people’s lives unnecessarily difficult.

No leading jurisdiction uses “odd vs even” day parking rules, for all the reasons listed above. They use either weekend vs weekday rotations, or divide the month into “1st – 15th” and “16th – end of the month”. Because that’s much easier for people to understand and to comply with, and still allows for periodic snow removal.

Just a little bit of thought and consideration towards residents, and a cursory search for precedent is all it would have taken to avoid this entire unfortunate situation.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to check my calendar and move my car.

Victoria Yeh, Meaford

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