Parking has been as issue in Newmarket for at least a century. We have this on the authority of Dave Kerwin no less, the longest serving councillor in Canada, perhaps the Western Hemisphere. He tells the Committee of the Whole last Monday (30 May 2016 – agenda item 10) that, as a member of the Newmarket Historical Society, he can state without fear of contradiction that:
“In Newmarket for the past 100 years there has been as issue with parking in the Downtown core.”
This is the same Dave Kerwin who told the Committee of the Whole on 31 August last year that he never has any difficulty finding somewhere to park downtown.
Personally, I think consistency is an over-rated quality in politicians. The fact that Kerwin bounces around all over the place hasn’t damaged his electability. He says he is “unorthodox”. True. But why stop there? He can also be irascible, curmudgeonly and theatrically angry when it suits. He is also a flamboyant flatterer.
Nine months ago at that August meeting, Kerwin-the-Contrarian took issue with Joe Sponga who was complaining about lack of enforcement of parking regulations. Last Monday, Joe was playing the same old record again but with an interesting new twist. Maybe parking spaces are not needed at all!
We can learn from Venice says Sponga
He tells us he recently visited the oldest continuously operating restaurant in Venice (as one does) which goes back to 1600 and he saw the future.
“Not only aren’t there any cars - or a parking lot for cars – there is not even parking for boats! Yet people are visiting this restaurant all the time for the food is delicious.”
Joe says we gotta go for a “sustainable solution”. The way forward is to go for high end restaurants. As soon as you pull in they step out and ask if they can park your car. Then at the end of your meal when you get your check, they get the valet to bring your car to the front door. You feel you’ve had a higher level of service and, sure, you’re gonna pay more. But that’s the future – “valetisation”. (I made the word up.)
Joe’s Ward 5 covers the historic downtown and he isn’t going to be voting for any parking solutions that are not sustainable.
He and the Mayor, for their own reasons, are the only two voting against John Taylor’s proposal to boost parking provision downtown by extending the car park at the entrance to Fairy Lake, adding 33 spaces next to the rail track (photo right). Seven old and diseased trees will have to go but there will be 21 sturdy young replacements. Taylor, enthusiastically supported by Dave Kerwin, also wants another 22 spaces carved out of Council owned greenery behind the Cachet restaurant costing approximately $150,000 (photo at top).
Sand in the gears
This is too much for Van Bynen who spends the entire meeting throwing sand into the gears. Why not wait to see what effect the additional 33 spaces will have before we chop down trees behind Cachet? He tells us we are getting mixed messages from the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority who must first agree any parking on a flood plain.
He wants to investigate feasibility and costs. Now he is gazing at the tea leaves at the bottom of his tea cup. He tells us he sees a lot of unknowns. He sees options that he wants to explore.
This infuriates Kerwin. He thinks Van Bynen is always trying to put a spoke in the wheel whenever someone comes up with a good idea. In Kerwin’s mind, Van Bynen is a born procrastinator, prevaricator and equivocator. Kerwin tells us the Mayor really believes the land behind Cachet looks like a junk heap. Van Bynen bristles.
“I didn’t say it looked like a junk heap!”
Kerwin, who sits on the board of the Conservation Authority, says they are fine with the proposal. Taylor weighs in saying he has an e mail from the Chief Executive of the LSRCA and they are OK about it. Taylor tells the Mayor respectfully it is a non-issue.
Our success has created the problem
Now Kerwin, warming to his theme, tells us
“Our success in the downtown core has created our problem. We have revitalized the downtown core. That’s incredible! We’ve brought people down to the downtown core! They are going to Cachet. They are going to Hungry Brew Hops. They are going to Made in Mexico. They are going to the Fish and Chips place…”
Tom Vegh says he will be supporting Taylor because the Old Town Hall, opening in September, will be a very successful venue and will add to parking pressures.
We learn that staff are to be asked to prepare an analysis of parking at the Old Town Hall.
On cue, Kelly Broome-Plumley, who is also in favour of Taylor’s recommendations, innocently asks if this analysis is not something that should have been done before. Without meaning to, she scores a bullseye. Why was nothing done when the Council was deciding to do up the Old Town Hall?
“Just curious” she says, diffidently.
We now sit through a very, very long pause…..
The Mayor invites one of the Town’s top officials, Peter Noehammer, to respond. He says he will “take a stab at it”.
“I guess the short answer is the Town did conduct a parking study of the downtown area. I don’t believe the report specifically looked at it when the peak events at the Old Town Hall would be held. Just more in the context of what the existing parking was and how it could be configured to accommodate future growth like restaurants and things like that….”
Downtown is thriving
Now Jane Twinney reveals she, too, is lining up to support Taylor. She tells us the downtown is an “incredible thriving area” and the Old Town Hall is going to be well used. But she laments the length of time it takes to get anything done under Van Bynen’s sclerotic leadership. She is fed up with constant delays. The parking report took six months!
“Sometimes we just need to make decisions about things!”
The Mayor is not at all happy with the way the debate is unfolding.
“I am not sure that I agree that parking behind Cachet is going to provide any relief for the Old Town Hall. Or Joia. I don’t believe that would provide any relief for those two locations… Burble… Burble… Burble… ”
The cautious Van Bynen wants to adopt a wait and see approach. We should go for the 33 spaces at Fairy Lake but put a hold on Cachet parking and, while we are at it, let’s examine the options for temporary parking structures. He wants another report! He warns councillors they will regret it if they press ahead and pave over the green space behind Cachet.
Christina Bisanz, who also supports Taylor, wants to know how much it will all cost and if the land is home to any rare threatened creatures. She looks at the Mayor as she mentions the salamander.
Now Dave Kerwin is getting increasingly exasperated. He will not allow the Mayor to out-manoeuvre him again. He brings to bear his impressive knowledge of arboriculture. He says the trees behind Cachet are nothing more than Manitoba Maples – an invasive species! He wants them chopped down and replaced by beautiful Colorado Blue Spruce, which sounds a tad foreign to me.
The Mayor, now fighting a rearguard action, tells us taking the trees down would have a very significant impact on the landscape.
Joe Sponga is Van Bynen’s only ally – but for different reasons. Joe tells us he will not support any of the recommendations. Joe wants underground parking on the Community Centre lands.
Taylor shakes his head sorrowfully while telling us he respects Cllr Sponga. With that out of the way, he tells us why he disagrees with Sponga.
“An underground parking solution on the Community Centre lands is at least five years away.”
That is absurdly optimistic.
Taylor is on safer ground sticking to his line that parking in the downtown is always going to be work in progress.
Joe Sponga has posted his own thoughts on downtown parking prompted by a story in the Era.
Attached is the story on the proposed parking solutions for Main Street. Unfortunately my statements are not reflected in the article, as the Ward Councillor and a long time resident of Historic Downtown Newmarket, I felt I should post my opinion. I support adding 200-300 Public Parking Spots split between above ground at the Community Centre Lands and underground at the Parking Lot in front of the OTH within five years, I cannot support grading, draining and paving portions of Fairy Lake for a mere 53 spots that will be tied up immediately and will make no difference now or tomorrow.
Green Space, does not have to be pretty or used in order to serve its purpose as Green Space, that is its natural state. I am surprised at the LSRCA for giving their nod of approval.
Sustainable Communities, such as ours, look for long term solutions that will benefit us and our children for many years, that is smart and sustainable. Valet Service by the Restaurants, above and below ground dedicate, urban, Green-P type parking, and maintaining and sustaining both our Green Space and Main Street are the solutions I would support.
Did anyone realize that five years ago we added 43 parking spots in P3? Have they made a difference? Should we do the same at the expense of Fairy Lake?
In sum, I support long term, sustainable parking solutions that make a difference. Not 22 parking spots behind Cache in Fairy Lake and not 33 at the entrance of our same Park.
My humble opinion.