County of Brant council members removed the 15-minute limit on two parking spots on Grand River Street North as a temporary solution to concerns expressed about the recent changes in parking.
Matt Cummings, Chair of the Paris Business Improvement Association (BIA), addressed council at the meeting on Tuesday, January 25 about the change from nine angled parking spots to five parallel spots in front of the businesses on the east side of Grand River Street North.
The parking was changed as part of the Downtown Paris Master Plan, which also introduced an entire new lot where the old Ontario Provincial Police station was.
Cummings spoke on behalf of the eight businesses on the block, including his own restaurant Cobblestone Pub, dbi Brokers Ltd Insurance, M & A Automotive Supply, Dog-Eared Café, Fizz Soakery, Studio Edun Spa, The Paris Dog Parlour, and Grand Experiences.
He said that he was shocked to hear that they were considering taking away four of the parking spots, but even more shocked when he found out that two of the remaining five spots had a 15-minute limit.
“What possible economic activity can be done in 15 minutes? You can’t have an insurance meeting, you can’t have lunch or grab a coffee with friends, and you certainly can’t have any spa services,” he said. Seven out of eight businesses confirmed with Cummings that the 15-minute spots are of no use to their customers, with the exception of The Paris Dog Parlour who he was unable to get a final word from.
Other concerns with the change include asking the aging population in Paris to parallel park near a busy intersection.
“Many have told me that they have given up and will not park in these spots and therefore will no longer visit these businesses. I recently had an emotional moment with a woman in her early 70s. She thanked me for all of the years of service and food but her and her husband would no longer be able to join us. Parallel parking is too intimidating, and they can’t walk far,” Cummings said. He also mentioned that parallel parking can be more disruptive to the traffic, with the time it takes to get situated in the spots. “It’s not just parking to us, it’s our livelihood. The decisions you make as public officials have real consequences on real people with real businesses and real employees.”
After the presentation, Councillor Steve Howes confirmed with Cummings that the request is to see the parking return to its original design.
“You employ more people between your three restaurants than anyone else in downtown Paris, you absolutely have our attention,” Councillor Howes said. “We respect that this has created challenges for all of the businesses on your block.”
He followed up by asking if the 15-minute spots were useless to all of the business owners on the block, which Cummings confirmed.
“We’re faced with finding the right balance between business and safety,” Howes said.
The intersection beside the block of businesses is known as one of the busiest in Paris. Councillor John Bell mentioned that he sees near misses with cars and pedestrians frequently, which Cummings disagreed with.
“I have been on that corner every single day for 14 years and I have never seen a single traffic accident. I understand that being proactive is important, but I’m a little bit concerned that we’re pulling too far from one, to solve a problem that didn’t really exist,” Cummings said.
After some discussion, councillor Marc Laferriere proposed that the concern be investigated by county staff.
“I think this is going to be really complex, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” Councillor Laferriere said. “I’m thinking something along the lines of throwing this to a staffer report. That would include roads, police and economic development, as well as the BIA so that we can get a 360 degree look at this.”
Ultimately, Mayor Bailey and councillors passed a motion to immediately remove the 15-minute limit from the two spots and to refer the concern back to county staff to research. All councillors were in favour of the motion aside from Councillor Bell.