When it comes to parking problems, Niagara-on-the-Lake is no different than most municipalities, and is actually a little easier on residents than many others.
Council recently eliminated its overnight parking ban, but parking in one spot is not allowed for more than 12 hours, and is prohibited during snow clearing operations, when parking becomes a costly issue for some residents.
In Niagara-on-the-Green, where parking has been a problem since the first houses were built, residents are becoming increasingly frustrated by the tickets they have received during recent snowfalls.
They see the signs.They understand the bylaws. What they don’t understand, they say, is what to do.
“I’m seriously frustrated with the town coming through the Niagara-on-the-Green area, especially along Robertson Road, to find their gold,” says Luise Postman.
“We are under lockdown. We are ordered to stay at home. We have lost our jobs. And here the town comes, faithfully 24/7, around the clock, rain or shine, dark or light, to ticket our cars,” she says.
“We are working so hard to find another kind neighbour who will let us park on their driveway.”
Postman, who moved there in 2006, says it’s a beautiful place to live, but “when will this stop? When will the town have some mercy on us?”
The parking issue has gone “over the roof, and spoils everything that is nice about this town. I truly hope this will end, and a change will happen.”
Daniel St-Jean lives on one of the streets in which has seen repeated ticketing. Having lived in cities where parking is allowed on alternate sides of the street, allowing for plowing on both sides, he sees it as a pretty simple solution.
Instead, no parking on one side, as in his neighbourhood, permits snow plows to make one pass, on one side.
“This is the way you can help us,” he says to the town, knowing that parking has been a problem in the subdivision since its earliest days. “Alternate parking is easy to do. All it takes is street signage.”
On a recent snowy morning, he counted 37 cars which were ticketed, in about 25 minutes.
Katie Figliomeni and her husband bought their house on Young Street when they had just two cars.
Today, their two children are driving, to college and university, but are home this winter, studying online because of the pandemic. Cars in her family get parked on the street.
They get tickets, although she managed to move one car just in time to avoid a ticket early one morning last week, before she left for work.
She understands snow-clearing regulations, although she says the plow only ever makes one pass down the subdivision roads.
On the town’s website, under frequently-asked questions regarding snow plowing, it answers why only one side of the street gets plowed. “Residential roads are plowed to centre bare condition, meaning the plow will create one lane for vehicular traffic.”
She also knows there is a 12-hour parking limit, and has been told by bylaw officers when they ticket that they’re responding to complaints.
“But they know full well there is nowhere else for us to park. I’m so frustrated. I told my husband I’m done with Niagara-on-the-Lake. We’re going to move this summer. And it all boils down to parking.”
Steve Hardaker, long-time member and vice-chair of the Glendale Task Force, recognizes that parking has long been and continues to be a divisive issue in the neighbourhood. “People either want more enforcement, or no enforcement at all,” he says.
The enforcement of prohibiting parking during a snowfall “has become an irritant again. Bylaw enforcement was in the neighbourhood earlier this week, ticketing during snow clearing operations. Not every illegally parked vehicle was tagged,” he says.
One neighbour who talked to an enforcement officer said they were focused on cars illegally parked because of the length of time without being moved, and were also on the street during snow clearing. “That irritated some because it appeared enforcement was randomly ticketing.”
The Glendale Task Force has not met since last March, when pandemic restrictions were initiated, he says. But when they do meet, “parking is a standing agenda item.”
“There are good reasons to restrict street parking during snow clearing operations. If the plow cannot clear the snow curb to curb, it can become a safety issue for emergency vehicles and for school buses. That is the basic reason for the restriction,” he says. In his neighbourhood, the plow passes both ways.
And it’s not a Niagara on the Green issue alone, he adds. Street parking restrictions for snow clearing exist in municipalities across the province.
“Thankfully, we do not get many storms that warrant snow clearing.”
Plows leaving snow beside parked cars and in front of driveways is an irritant to home owners, he adds.
Homes with single driveways and sidewalks that leave room for only one car, garages used for storage rather than parking, student rentals, multiple resident rentals and households with several cars all add to the problem, says Hardaker.
“We have a two-car garage and four parking spots on our driveway. We have offered temporary parking in our driveway during snow clearing. That offer has only been accepted twice in the last two years.”
A number of years ago, residents of the first phase of the subdivision, from Niagara on the Green Blvd. east to Glendale, voted on a permit system that would allow one parking spot on the street for the person who purchased the permit. “This was done to discourage students from parking in the neighbourhood rather than purchasing a pass to park at the college,” but it didn’t alleviate the requirement for no parking during snow clearing, he says.
It’s not an easy issue to resolve, says Hardaker. In 2019, members of the task force met with the Royal Niagara Golf Club manager about using its parking lot during snow clearing operations, but issues such as liability insurance were problematic, he says. “People generally liked the idea, but balked at having to buy a parking permit to help offset the costs.” The idea died.
During the approval process for Phase 3 several years ago, members of the Glendale Task Force warned that too many townhouses would lead to parking issues, Hardaker recalls. “The town chose not to heed those warnings. Phase 3 is mostly townhouses.”
Between Dec. 26, and Jan. 29, when St-Jean says he received three tickets, the town bylaw department says 102 tickets were issued in Niagara on the Green. Three were for parking for longer than 12 hours, 84 for parking “in such a manner as to interfere,” and 15 for obstructing fire hydrants, left wheels to curbs and parking in a prohibited area.
As to a solution for residents who have small garages and large cars, and one-car driveways, the situation for many of the Niagara on the Green homeowners, the town says, is that “residents are required to adhere to the regulations identified in the bylaw.”
Coun. Norm Arsenault, the town’s representative on the Glendale Task Force, says residents should understand the parking restrictions by now — they’re not new, and they are not just for Glendale. He agrees parking has been an ongoing problem in the subdivision, and the task force has looked for solutions, but so far, found nothing that works.
When the subdivision was approved by the town it met all provincial policies, including parking allotment, he adds. One of the contributing issues is that many residents choose not to use their garages for parking one of their vehicles. If they did, that would take about 200 cars off the streets, he estimates.
Arsenault sees this as a problem created by our love of cars, in part a result of inadequate transit systems.
“This is the nature of the beast. There are so many cars, and large cars. Last year we had a similar issue in Cannery Park in St. Davids. We’re squeezing more people into smaller spaces, with less room for parking.”
Alternate side of the street parking is a solution worth considering, he says, adding he would bring it up to the town CAO and operating manager.