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Mayor defends pay parking

More than 1,500 people have joined Facebook group, signed petitions



Over 1,500 of people have joined the anti-pay parking Facebook group and hundreds more have signed paper petitions circulating in Whistler Village.

But one month after the grass-roots movement against charging for parking at the Telus Conference Centre began, Mayor Ken Melamed said he has no immediate plans to reverse the situation.

"It is my intention to carry forward on the parking pricing strategy," said the mayor, who has also received more than 150 e-mails in the past week on the subject.

"On many levels, I believe we are 10 years behind what is known as best practice in transportation demand management policy across North America and the world."

Melamed has a question he wants to put back to people who are concerned about the $10 day fee at the conference centre: how would the community instead like to reduce number of people who drive to the village.

"Given the community, over a number of years, has come to an agreement that reducing automobile and vehicle traffic is consistent with community priorities, the question is how does the council effectively influence the transportation choices of residents and visitors," said Melamed, citing the Whistler 2020 vision process.

Pay parking was introduced to the conference centre in April. Council also decided to raise parking rates on Main Street by $1. The reason behind these moves, said council members, was to balance the municipality's finances and take the pressure off property taxes.

But many residents and businesses in Whistler are outraged by the change, and an informal paper petition was started mid-April by a group of businesses. The website was also launched. A few weeks later, another individual began a Facebook group.

"Everyone is against this," Lauren Sampson, the founder of the Facebook group, said this week.

"There have been a couple of people that have commented that they don't care because they don't have a car but 99 per cent of the Whistler community is definitely against this decision that Ken (Melamed) made."

Sampson pointed out that, as of last Monday, 1,598 people had joined her Facebook group. She says only 1,218 people voted for Melamed in the last election.

"I think we have made it clear to Ken that the community is against this decision," said Sampson.

"If he could prove this would be good for the community, that would be great. We have raised this issue to the point he should be aware he should do further analysis if he wants to maintain these policies."