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Councillor wants end to pay parking at conference centre

Grant Lamont has three motions lined up for next week’s meeting to address issue

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When Whistler council next meets, Grant Lamont hopes to speak about pay parking at the conference centre and throughout the village.

The first-term councillor not only wants to ensure that pay parking comes to the municipality's parking lot and two of the day skier Lots remain free, he also wants to get rid of pay parking from the Telus Conference Centre's underground parking lot - at least for now.

"Realistically, I am not against pay parking, but I am against the way pay parking was brought in," explained Lamont.

"The business community has to be better engaged."

In particular, Lamont wants to remove pay parking from the conference centre's parking lot so that local businesses can be consulted more thoroughly. And during this period, he wants to see the three-hour time limit reinstated and enforced.

Pay parking is already slated for the parking lot adjacent to municipal hall; and no pay parking plans are in place for day skier lots 4 and 5, both next to Lorimer Road. However, council has not passed any official legislation so far on either of these points.

Lamont has three motions prepared for the July 7 th council meeting at MY Millennium Place.

Lamont's proposals come at a time when many local businesses and residents have spoken out against pay parking at both the conference centre and day skier lots 1, 2 and 3.

To date, 625 of 708 people have voted "yes" to free parking at www.freewhistlerparking.com ; 2,126 people have joined the Facebook group "Petition for Free Whistler Parking" and hundreds more are estimated to have signed the paper petitions circulating throughout the village.

Pay parking was approved for the conference centre in April to help balance the municipality's finances and encourage people to use alternative transportation like bikes and buses when travelling to the village. Originally, the pay parking included a two-hour time limit. The limit was dropped last month, however, after municipal staff heard complaints from residents.

Three of the five day skier parking lots are also earmarked for pay parking after the summer of 2010. The three lots are currently being paved in preparation for the Olympics. Introducing pay parking to these lots has been on municipal books for several years.

Lamont said council should also ensure end-of-trip facilities - like good bike racks - are also easily found in Whistler to keep people out of their cars.

He added that in Steamboat, Colorado, where he lived for three years, transit was free. And while he knows the Canadian business model is different because the municipality does not collect any sales tax, it is an idea worth exploring.

"We give free transit to visitors here," said Lamont. "If we really want to get people out of their cars, we have to give them a carrot."

Bus fare in Whistler currently sits at $2. According to the municipality, there are no plans to increase fares any time soon.

Meanwhile, the municipality plans to open the recently repaved day skier lots 1 and 2 to the public sometime this week. Lot 3, on the other hand, will be closed over the next few weeks while it undergoes upgrades.

Construction on lot 4, which will be paved but remain free after the Olympics, should begin in August.

Together, lots 1, 2 and 3 will have 885 parking stalls. Lots 4 and 5 have more than 1,000 parking spaces. The underground parking lot at the conference centre has 175 stalls.

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