Retailers have successfully lobbied Lismore City Council (LCC) to place a moratorium on paid parking in a downtown carpark, which will eventually lose most of its spaces under floodplain management.
The Kirkland Riviera carpark has recently changed from a free two-hour carpark to paid parking and local retailers claim it has had a significant impact on their income.
Councillors voted this week to hold a briefing with affected retailers and customers and requested a subsequent report be brought to Council on a comprehensive CBD parking plan.
Elders Real Estate owner Mr Andrew Gordon asked Council at public access to reveal the earnings generated from paid parking.
Council staff responded that ‘paid parking up to week five at Kirkland Riviera carpark totalled $2,789, so the average is about $550 per week. Occupancy from sample inspections range from about 48 cars to 19, which averages about 30 carparks on inspection. This is about 25 per cent occupancy as there are 126 spaces available.’
Mr Gordon then questioned the costs to maintain the carpark.
Council staff said that ‘it is pretty self-sufficient and low maintenance with a minimum ongoing cost.’
Bank cafe owner Mr David Copeland also addressed Council at public access and presented a petition with 3,200 signatures from people opposing paid parking at the Kirkland Riviera carpark.
‘The business community is desperately hoping that Council will see fit to overturn the original decision to impose paid parking in the CBD,’ Mr Copeland said, ‘so the business community can maintain a healthy CBD full of unique and local businesses that go a long way to making Lismore the vibrant place that it is.’
Cr Simon Clough asked Mr Copeland if he was aware if this paid parking had affected any employment strategies at his business.
‘I was that close to speaking to the Northern Rivers Group Training about putting on a trainee as my business had reached a point where I could put on someone else,’ Mr Copeland said, ‘and within a week of paid parking being introduced I no longer required it or could afford it.’
Mr Copeland said he had spoken to at least 25 businesses that were all suffering.
Cr Greg Bennett put up the original notice of motion at this week’s meeting to remove the paid parking and at previous council meetings tried to stop paid parking before it was introduced and could not lodge a rescission motion due to procedural restraints.
‘We are here to represent the ratepayers and we have just heard from more than 3,000 of them,’ Cr Bennett said.
‘It is bad policy and is hurting our businesses. The chamber of commerce conducted a survey of businesses asking if they want paid parking in the CBD; 82.6 per cent said no.
‘Effectively this is another tax on our businesses that already pay three times the rates as surrounding areas,’ said Cr Bennett.
‘Council staff has said that paid parking can be used to change behaviours and yes, it has changed; they are going to the Square to take advantage of the free undercover parking provided.’
Cr Bennett was also critical of Council’s trying to negotiate deals with affected businesses.
Cr Isaac Smith moved an amendment to enact a moratorium on paid parking at the Kirkland Riviera carpark until a comprehensive parking plan was established.
‘There was not enough consultation done before paid parking was implemented,’ Cr Smith said.
‘With my amendment what I am trying to say is let us have a look at the whole picture and put a hold on it until then,’ said Cr Smith.
‘We cannot just look at one street at a time, but the whole lot, and include places such as the hospital.’
Cr Neil Marks spoke against the amendment and admitted that Council had ‘got it wrong and we can fix it now’.
Cr Marks uses the carpark himself and even admitted to Council’s compliance officer that he has already ‘forgotten’ to pay the parking fee.
Cr Marks called the current parking arrangement a ‘double whammy’ approach.
‘So we charge people to park there and we pay for a vehicle to drive around and charge people who overstay their carpark,’ said Cr Marks.
The impacts go beyond the businesses on Molesworth Street, said Cr Marks.
‘The service industries that back on into those areas are affected as well; some of those organisations have volunteers who do not or cannot pay for parking.’
Cr Marks revealed the costs of the equipment for paid parking.
‘We paid $25,000 for it; we may have to find somewhere else to bolt it and earn its money there. $2,800 over its first five weeks is a long time to repay anyway so we may as well find another place for it.’
Cr Clough showed photographs of the Riviera carpark at low occupancy at 9.15am on a weekday yet that same day was busy downtown.
‘We need to look at who is using these carparks, such as employees,’ Cr Clough. ‘Everyone is going to oppose paid parking. I do not support a knee-jerk reaction and just remove paid parking all together. We can stop it for now while we look at all the options involved.’
Cr Clough acknowledged the impacts of elements that affect business owners.
‘I understand these impacts and when I hear about waiting two to three months for paid parking to settle in, that is enough for some businesses to disappear. Not because their businesses are not good; these are difficult times.’
Cr Graham Meineke sees the low occupation of the now paid-parking carpark as a passive resistance campaign and admitted he is one of them.
Cr Vanessa Ekins doesn’t see that Council have made a mistake with the introduction of paid parking at the Riviera carpark.
‘This is only a small percentage of carparks, 126 carparks out of 560,’ Cr Ekins said. ‘An earlier TTM consultant traffic study used numberplate recognition, which showed that it was staff from shops that were staying in carparks all day long.
‘This is all about turnover. If this carpark is suddenly empty then maybe those staff are not wanting to pay the two dollars for their time.’
Cr Ekins brought Council’s attention to long-term floodplain management that identifies the Kirkland Riviera carpark as being on very unstable riverbank.
‘The next stage of Richmond River County Council’s work on the river is to remove most of that carpark; it needs to be benched right back.’
Cr Mathew Scheibel suggested that if Council were going to charge for parking then drivers may want something in return.
‘Shade, light and security could be offered for that premium,’ Cr Scheibel said.
Cr Glenys Ritchie believes that it will be inevitable that Lismore has paid parking.
‘If we are successful with Come to the Heart and Imagine Lismore then we will have more people coming to Lismore and parking will become more of a premium,’ Cr Ritchie said. ‘We do need to see this as a big-picture issue that needs to be discussed with all stakeholders.’
Cr Ritchie suggested that retailers could also look at how they could contribute creatively.
‘There may be some kind of discount that people could get, such as go to a cafe and if they present a parking ticket they may get a dollar off their coffee,’ said Cr Ritchie.
Cr Bennett urged Cr Smith to withdraw his amendment and said a workshop is not needed and that the community has spoken. The amendment was carried (Cr Bennett, Scheibel, Marks, Battista and Meineke against).