Council discussion over a proposed First Street West infill centred around downtown parking woes.
Michelle Bowlen and Celim Bedoya, who co-own Tantrum Holding Co., are proposing a three-storey infill at 306 First St. W. The space would house a retail bike store – Tantrum Ride Co.– on the first floor and the second floor and mezzanine would be office space.
According to the City’s bylaws, the property would be required to have 11 parking stalls, however, on the narrow lot, there’s only room for two.
In addressing City Council at a regular council meeting on Feb. 13, Nigel Whitehead, director of development services, said that staff are supporting a variance from 11 stalls down to five.
“Office use is a use that we want to encourage downtown, but it does have some of the highest impacts per square footage on parking requirements,” said Whitehead. “Staff are concerned with losing too much parking.”
The applicants have the option of setting up an agreement with neighbouring properties to provide the other three spaces, or they can pay $20,000 per stall to the City as cash-in-lieu of parking.
The money from the cash-in-lieu policy is used for construction of City parking facilities elsewhere, a City planner report to council said. The funds could also be put towards vehicle reduction strategies, like bike infrastructure.
The amount for cash-in-lieu of parking was raised from $2,500 per stall in 2007 to the current rate of $20,000 per stall.
“Parking doesn’t come cheap,” said Whitehead, noting that it costs money to level and grade an area, put in drainage and pave it.
The report listed the amounts that other municipalities collect for their cash-in-lieu policies.
They ranged from $3,000 in Rossland, B.C. to $40,000 in Canmore, Alta. Revelstoke is among the five most expensive for developers included on the list, matching Whistler. The only locales included that are more expensive are Canmore, New Westminster ($35K), downtown Kelowna ($22.5K) and Banff ($21K).
The City already has $166K set aside from cash-in-lieu payments, which was collected when the running cost was $2,500 per stall.
Bowlen believes that the cash-in-lieu policy is unfairly targeting developers, when the cost for parking should be put on the people using the stalls.
“The way the parking bylaw is set up is disproportionately affecting the people who are looking to fill in those empty spaces in our downtown core,” she said when addressing council at the meeting on Feb. 13.
“I think that there would be a lot of people who wouldn’t drive downtown if they had to pay to come downtown to work,” she said. “It’s pretty easy to drive your car when you can park it all day for free.”
Census data from 2016 suggests that 26.5 per cent of Revelstokians commute by bicycle, foot or public transit.
In a Jan. 29 letter to the planning department, Bowlen and Bedoya asked the City to lower the amount they would be required to pay if they were not able to provide the necessary parking stalls.
“A fee of $60,000 is simply too onerous an amount to pay,” they write, “and one which takes up such a large portion of the building budget as to render the project very hard to justify from a financial standpoint.”
Whitehead said that there are a number of other commercial projects being proposed for the downtown area that would also likely be faced with parking problems.
“In absence of a parking study, this is what council is going to be continuing to look at time and again,” he said. “We’ve got one to three more applications sitting on the back burner that will be asking this same question: what is the appropriate cost for parking to put on developers?”
According to the staff report, capital funding for a parking strategy is included in the draft budget.
Council unanimously approved staff’s recommendation that council give notice of its intention to vary the bylaw for the parking stall allowance on the project from 11 stalls to five and to eliminate the requirement of a loading bay.
Councillor Gary Salz was absent from the meeting. Councillor Aaron Orlando and Mayor Mark McKee declared conflicts before the matter was discussed and did not vote.