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Parking rules frustrate business owner

City requires off-site stalls but theres lots of space on the street
Laura Walz

When he looks out the windows of the beautifully restored Bank of Montreal building in Townsite, Shane Bodie sees streets with many empty parking spaces. He can’t understand why the City of Powell River is requiring him to create five off-site parking spots for his new business, Studio 56.

Bodie is renting the bottom floor of the heritage building, creating a contemporary art gallery, a tea and coffee parlour and a community event venue. He has returned the space to as close to its original condition as possible. He exposed the original hardwood floor that had been covered with linoleum, restored the original plaster ceilings, filled over 3,000 cracks and holes, repaired all the water damage, rewired all the original electrical work and built the coffee and tea bar from original bank wickets. “When I took over the building I had to figure out how to basically repair 85 years of damage within the space,” he said. “We took our time to make sure that we used and repurposed everything that we could find that was left over from that era.”

When the Bank of Montreal, located on the corner of Ash Avenue and Walnut Street, operated out of the building, there were five spaces in the parking lot on the west side of the building designated for bank parking. Bodie, who found the old signs indicating they were for the bank, said he assumed they could be used for his business as well. But then in August he found out that the parking lot is owned by Catalyst Paper Corporation and while the mill basically donated those spots for the bank to use, they aren’t available to his business.

The city gave Bodie two options. One was to find five spaces in another location and the other was to apply for a variance, which would cost $250, as well as the cost to register it on title, if council approved waiving the parking requirement. He found five spaces in the parking lot of the Townsite Mall that could be used for his business, but he has to have a lawyer prepare a covenant to be registered on the title of the property.

The time the process has taken as well as the added expense has frustrated Bodie, especially since there is so much parking available in that area of Townsite. “It just seems unnecessary,” he said. “The zoning bylaw could probably be adjusted to facilitate new businesses, especially in heritage sites. I feel there could be some leeway.”

The Townsite Mall parking lot is across Walnut and up a steep hill, which, to Bodie, contradicts all the wheelchair accessibility issues he is dealing with in the building. “Wouldn’t it make sense to assign the parking closest to my business for the sake of being able to include all the people in the community, to be able for anybody with mobility issues to experience what everybody else can experience?”

Businesses that have recently started up are trying to resurrect Townsite in new and interesting ways for the community to enjoy, Bodie added. “That’s what Studio 56 is all about,” he said. “My plan is to make the gallery a cultural centre within this community and these bylaws hinder that. I would love them to readdress these issues when dealing with small businesses.”

When Carlos Felip, the city’s director of planning services, looks at the issue, he sees the big picture. “At this moment, you could say, there’s so much parking in Townsite, why ask this gentleman for parking when there’s plenty?” Felip said. “What happens when everybody else develops in the area? Then you have the type of situation we are having to some extent on Marine [Avenue], where sometimes you just can’t find a parking stall.”

When people see one small business in an area where there is very little development, Felip said, they wonder what’s the point. “It’s easy to think, ‘you can park anywhere,’” he said. “And it’s true, you can park anywhere, but hopefully things will change.”

If development occurs in the Townsite area, street parking will become less and less available, Felip added. As well, the city has to be fair to all businesses, he said. “The bylaw can not be written so businesses that locate first don’t need parking and those that locate later have to provide three times more parking because they don’t have anywhere to park.”

He foresees Townsite changing significantly in the next two to three years, Felip said. “There will be a demand for parking,” he said. “We have to be careful not to create these businesses that will leave everybody else out or create a conflict.”