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Pay parking sparks debate at Dialogue Café

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By Alison Taylor

If the discussion at the political Dialogue Cafés is any indication of what’s on the minds of the community, pay parking is the issue of the day.

Just as it was part of the discussion at the first political Dialogue Café two weeks ago, the issue was again raised at Tuesday’s most recent community discussion, with Councillors Tim Wake and Eckhard Zeidler.

And while council has made no decision as yet, it’s clear that the $4.3 million resurfacing project in the day skier lots, which includes a pay parking system, are on the community’s radar screen.

“What galls me about pay parking is here’s one more time where we’ve got our hands out for people coming to the community,” said Ron Erickson, one of seven community members at the intimate Dialogue Café.

Erickson said he would rather see his taxes go up then have to pay for parking on the lots.

Sara Jennings disagreed. She doesn’t want to pay for something she doesn’t use and, more to the point, pay parking is one way to move more people out of cars and onto buses — one small way of tackling climate change.

“I think pay parking is the least we can do,” said Jennings, who is also the newly elected president of the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment.

“Society needs to make some huge changes…. Paying for parking is nothing. We need to do a lot more.”

The pay parking is proposed as a staggered system where people parking close to the village would pay the most, and those parking in the lot furthest away could park for free. It is also expected that all the money collected would be funneled back into transit to improve the local bus system.

Any decisions will be made after thorough public consultation assured the councillors at the Dialogue Café.

“It’s where the rubber is going to hit the road,” joked Zeidler.

The councillors were also asked to reflect on the past 18 months in office as well as take a look ahead to the rest of their terms. Topics ranged from the Rainbow development to the municipality’s need to communicate more with the community.

The café also comes on the heels of council’s decision to spend another $1.38 million on the new library, bringing the budget of that 16,000 square foot facility up to $11 million.

That decision was also part of Tuesday’s discussion, particularly as it relates to the possibility of building a new museum after the Games. Current figures put that 22,000 square foot facility at $14 million.

“There is going to be a very, very hard look taken at any expenditures,” said Wake.

“I think we’ve overspent on the library. I think we’ve got an order of magnitude problem.”

Zeidler said there could be opportunities in the pipeline for the museum by way of the 2010 Olympic Games.

Delegations looking to have a presence in the resort for 2010 are considering bringing pavilions to Whistler. Those could remain as a legacy after the Games as a place to house the museum.

“Free buildings sound pretty good to me,” said Zeidler.

The evening was part of a series of Dialogue Cafés taking place throughout the corridor with local politicians at the half way mark in their term.

The Whistler Forum for Leadership & Dialogue hosts the sessions for a suggested donation of $5.

The next discussion in Whistler will take place at Behind the Grind with Mayor Ken Melamed on Tuesday, June 12 at 7:30 p.m.

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