A longtime Steveston businessman is calling for a return to allday free parking across the entire village.
Parking issues have grown in the village over the last year, especially after the Steveston Harbour Authority (SHA) introduced pay parking to its previously free gravel expanse off Chatham Street.
In the spring, the city was forced to respond to growing concerns over people, including local merchants' staff, abusing the lackadaisical two-hour parking rule on the village's streets.
However, since the City of Richmond introduced a summerlong trial of strictly enforcing the two-hour parking rule, visitors are turning off and away from Steveston, according to Vancouver Whale Watch owner Cedric Towers.
Towers said he's watched in dismay over the last few weeks as the city's parking enforcement officers "aggressively" went about their business, ticketing motorists for the slightest infractions.
And although he says his business has only been affected slightly, Towers said it's only a matter of time before every merchant starts to feel the pay-parking pinch.
"It's worrying to see people getting ticketed for being one foot on the yellow or being three minutes over their time, that's not Steveston," he said.
"It's upsetting people and I guarantee they are being turned off coming back here or even coming at all when they hear what it's now like.
"People are paranoid about leaving their vehicle anywhere and it's all very heavy-handed and overly aggressive."
The city's spokesman, Ted Townsend, said they've received no more complaints than usual since the enforcement trial period kicked off.
"The enforcement there is no different than it is in any other part of the city," he said.
"Most of the tickets down there are for parking in front of a hydrant and driveways.
"As for being 'aggressive,' anyone who gets a parking ticket considers it to be aggressive."
Nevertheless, Towers said local businesses should join forces and lobby for a return to free parking village-wide, before Steveston loses the goodwill of more potential and loyal customers.
And he said that could easily be achieved if everyone chips in and subsidizes the likes of the formerly free gravel parking lot on Chatham Street, owned by the SHA.
"The harbour authority should make that entire lot free for the business community and visitors," he said.
"Maybe all the businesses could put in a bit of money? If I knew the parking there was going to be free, I would pay into that."
The SHA's operations manager, Jim Jones, said the harbour would consider a proposal for a subsidized parking lot if such an offer came forward to the authority's board.
No one from the Steveston Merchants Association was able to comment at time of going to press.
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