A number of residents along the 1000 and 1100 blocks of Second Avenue Northwest addressed city council on Tuesday night, voicing their concerns about one-sided parking on narrow streets.
Their concerns were that residents who don’t have driveways can’t plug in their vehicles during winter, seniors and families with young children are not able to park in front of their house and it will bring down the property value.
They came to council asking that they be allowed to park with two wheels on the boulevard until the streets can be widened.
“Unfortunately, not all can afford a large lot, or to build a garage on their lot. It seems that this one-sided parking might be inadvertently targeting middle to lower-income families,” said resident Rosemarie Zaba Stewart.
Shelley Hill is a resident on the 1100 block of Second Avenue Northwest. She said, regardless if they are allowed to park on the boulevard, a fire truck can still get down the street.
“Even without two wheels there is room, we've measured the width of the fire trucks, we've measured the width of the streets with big vehicles parked there. There is room. We just want to be able to park in front of our own homes and plug our vehicles in,” Hill said.
However, city councilors pointed out that doing nothing isn’t an option as the narrow streets are not compliant with the National Fire Code of Canada, so it is a liability issue.
“Everyone says nothing ever happened on those streets, and I hope nothing ever does happen. God forbid if something did, the seven of us are the ones that pay the price because we are the ones that will have had all the recommendations, all the experts tell us what we're supposed to do, and then we're the ones that will have to defend a decision that potentially was catastrophic,” said Coun Heather Eby.
Drone footage by the fire department and shared with city council in March showed that, while it is true that fire trucks can fit down the narrow streets, it is a tight squeeze and the truck can’t move very fast.
Deputy Fire Chief Mike Russell added that more than just the width of the truck needs to be taken into consideration as well.
“We have to be able to pull equipment off that truck. We have to utilize appliances on the sides of that truck. We have to be able to do our jobs in that spacing, so it has to equate to that spacing as well to allow the fire truck to come down the road and not only just crawl down the road, but to be operable and that's where the fire code is very specific and says that a roadway must be maintained at all times,” he said.
Russell said the fire department could consider smaller trucks, but they would have limited water and pump capacity which would mean they would not be as effective in fighting fires.
The residents proposed widening the streets when the cast iron water main replacement comes through. However, in order for that to be done, it would require 50 per cent plus one from the property owners to agree to the cost and it would cost the average homeowner about $9,000.
The engineering department also confirmed that those blocks aren’t even scheduled to be done yet, so it could be years before they get to them.
A motion was put forward by Mayor Clive Tolley to approve the request for parking two wheels on the boulevard until the street can be widened and that the city provides a seven-meter curb cut at no cost to properties without a front driveway, with an estimated cost of $1,000 to the city. The cost of the driveway itself would be the homeowner’s responsibility.
The issue arising when it comes to parking with two wheels on the boulevard is that it is illegal according to the city’s boulevard bylaw. To allow it would mean changing the bylaw for either part of the city or the entire city.
Coun. Dawn Luhning also pointed out that parking on the boulevard would be problematic in the winter.
“It's great right now when there's no snow on the boulevard and that sort of thing, right? But what are you going to do when we get the kind of snow we did this year,” she pondered.
Another issue was that streets such as Sixth Avenue Northwest have had one-sided parking since 2016. Coun. Crystal Froese recalled that these same issues came up during that time, and changing the rules now would set a precedent.
“Having these motions come forward I think are fine knowing that if we pass these, these concessions should also be available to those who have already over several years abided by the narrow streets,” she said.
Froese asked to have the two motions referred back to city administration to find out how one-sided parking was handled back in 2016 before making a decision. The referral motion was passed unanimously.