A public meeting turned into a love-in last week as locals lauded Ucluelet’s municipal council for their proposed parking lot idea.
The district has a deal in place to purchase a currently forested 1.1-acre lot at 1638 Cedar Road for $290,000. District staff estimates it would cost roughly $100,000 to then convert the land into a parking lot.
Before going through with the purchase, Ucluelet’s council wanted to hear from the community, which they did at Oct. 3’s public meeting where they received resounding support from an audience of roughly 15 locals.
“I’m just delighted to see this. I think it could solve present and future demands,” said Barbara Schramm.
“I think it’s a great idea and it’s really forward thinking of council and John [Towgood], the planner,” echoed Pieter Timmermans.
“I think it’s a really great, positive step for the District of Ucluelet to take the parking matters into their hands, because we all know the scenarios of our neighbour [Tofino] and all the problems that they have,” said Jan Draeseke. “To take this downtown core area and put it in the hands of the district means that the people of Ucluelet are in charge of what happens with the future of the downtown; as opposed to it being in the hands of a developer.”
St. Jacques explained the lot is part of a longterm solution to Ucluelet’s growing parking concerns, adding that RV’s parked along the side of Peninsula Road created congestion over the summer.
“We’re experiencing growth,” she said. “This would be an attempt to stay ahead of our parking issues.”
Ucluelet’s Planner 1 John Towgood said the lot would not only provide roughly 50 new parking spots, but would also break up a current block of inaccessible downtown space.
“Big blocks, kind of, kill cities and kill walkability. So, one of the important parts is to break it up and this parking lot can actually do that in a lot of ways by creating access,” he said.
Coun. Randy Oliwa touted the future parking lot as “the key to the downtown core,” because of its proposed pedestrian walkways and St. Jacques agreed.
“We’re pretty excited about the possibility of it, just because we can see a real change in that downtown core with this,” St. Jacques said.
The lot’s entrance is currently off Cedar Road and St. Jacques acknowledged significant signage would be needed to help direct traffic to it, though she added the district is looking into a possible entrance off Peninsula Road to make it easier to find.
Robert Zurowski raised concerns around the Cedar Road access requiring drivers to negotiate either the Bay and Peninsula intersection, or “the worst intersection in town at Main and Peninsula.”
He added the lot should include disabled accessible parking.
“Ucluelet is lacking in that,” he said.
Laura Griffith-Cochrane urged the district to keep as much green space as possible while creating the new lot and Barbara Schramm agreed.
“I think it would be great if the parking lot itself kept a green-community look to it: islands with trees and a bit of landscaping,” Schramm said.
Dennis Morgan supported the district buying the land, but suggested keeping an open mind towards its future use.
“I don’t think the whole thing should be a parking lot. That would be not the right use for it. But, certainly, a component because we need more parking right now,” Morgan said. “There should be a bigger vision than that for that piece of property.”
Ian Kennington also voiced support for the purchase, but advised against encouraging RV’s to head downtown.
“My only concern is management of RV’s,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s necessarily the right way to go because Tofino is having trouble with RV’s going downtown and actually damaging other vehicles.”
Doug Kimoto asked if a multi-story parkade would be possible. St. Jacques responded that a parkade would be unaffordable.
“We’ve tossed around all kinds of ideas and two or three-storey parkade there is one of them,” she said.
“The cost for those is really big, so out of our reach.”