This week at council marked this last two meetings of the month. The first one was the surprisingly straightforward regular council meeting that was all about affirming the decisions from Committee of the Whole plus some GMHI business. The other meeting was more interesting, the opening of feedback from council about the new Downtown Parking Master Plan. Let’s cover it all in this week’s recap…
Regular Meeting of City Council – March 28
The regular meeting this month was relatively brief, and was preceded by a special meeting of council as shareholder of Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. After an in-camera session, they appointed Jane Armstrong to be Guelph’s rep to the Alectra Board of Directors, and then KPMG was endorsed as the preferred auditor for Alectra.
In the actual council meeting, the consent agenda was swiftly approved with only one pause for Ward 6 Councillor Dominique O’Rourke to mark this historic moment where the South End Community Centre finally moves forward into the final pre-construction phase of development.
The only item from Committee of the Whole that was held over for further discussion was “Business Licensing – Short-Term Rental Accommodations”. Former council candidate Morgan Dandie wanted to support the original staff recommendations to restrict licence holders to renting out only a single property in addition to the one they inhabit. Dandie said that she felt compelled to delegate after Councillor Dan Gibson said at committee that he’d like to lift that restriction, but Gibson was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.
Councillor Cathy Downer took the opportunity to ask staff a couple of follow-up questions, one about enforcement, which will be complaint-based like most bylaws, and the other about loopholes. Downer said that she’s heard about how some landlords are using short-term rentals as a way of working around oversight from the Landlord Tenant Board, and staff said that they’ve heard similar things. The intention with regulation, staff said, is to deter abuse.
The recommendation for “Business Licensing – Short-Term Rental Accommodations” was approved unanimously.
Click here to see the complete recap of the meeting.
Workshop Meeting of City Council – March 29
The real energy at council this week was around this workshop, the initiation of the review of the Downtown Parking Master Plan. At issue: How much can the City lean on parking as a driver of economic activity while encouraging people to make a shift to non-personal vehicle modes of transportation.
City staff and the consultants shared a lot of information about how parking downtown has changed over the last 10 years, and the challenges presented by the pandemic and the new demand for growth pushed by the Provincial government. What does this mean? New models of work that sees fewer people appearing at the office in-person, as well as the fate of the Co-operators building when they move to their new HQ in the south end, and the Baker District Redevelopment. They also looked at how any downtown parking plan had to align with the Transportation Master Plan and the upcoming new Comprehensive Zoning Bylaw.
Members of council had many different thoughts around parking downtown, from creating more accessible parking, to expanding the definition to vehicle parking to cover things like scooters and ebikes, and the role of electrification. On that last point, consultant Ralph Bond, the principal for B.A. Group, pointed out that there’s not yet enough demand to have chargers at every other parking space, but the City will need to be ready and able to act on that shift because it will happen quickly.
Councillor Rodrigo Goller and other councillors asked about paid parking options, and Bond explained that a lot of different options could be on the table including paid street parking and free access to parking structures. Bond said that according to his research there’s always a percentage of people that don’t like paying for parking at all, but usually people don’t mind so long as their concerns about availability, safety and security are answered.
Another area of concern is overflow parking on streets around downtown. Councillor Leanne Caron explained that she was aware of instances where homeowners near downtown rented out their driveway during the day. Part of the process will be collecting more data and trying to understand the flow of parking and the duration of parking times downtown. Caron’s wardmate Councillor Cathy Downer made the point that a lot of shop owners have used free on-street parking for themselves in the past, and Doug Godfrey, GM of Operations, said that this is still known to happen.
Another question raised by Councillor Ken Yee Chew was the effect of 2-way, all-day GO Trains. Bond said that council needs to be careful with GO service because they don’t want people to drive downtown to take GO and have it compete with commercial interests for spaces. The suggestion was made to closely align parking with transit, and Bond said that he’s seen good results with that in New Brunswick. Jamie Zettle, Program Manager of Parking Engineering and Transportation Services, also added that building more parking is not part of any Metrolinx expansion plan.
In the final analysis, Guthrie said that he wants the City to be bold on parking, and that he doesn’t want to plan the future around the private automobile because it’s poor land use planning. Councillor Carly Klassen, herself a downtown business owner, said the core needs to a place that’s commercially vibrant, and an attractive place first and foremost. Councillor Dominique O’Rourke warned that there needs to be caution with the plan because developers are passing the buck when it comes to amenities like parking.
Do you have any thoughts about parking downtown? Well, you can Have Your Say on the City’s website and sign up for a virtual open house that’s taking place on Thursday April 13.
Click here to see the complete recap of the meeting.