Public meeting next week to discuss potential new parking lot in Ucluelet

“It’s always good to share an exciting project and I think this one is a real game changer for downtown.”

Ucluelet is eyeing a new parking lot to serve its downtown core. (Andrew Bailey - Photo)

Ucluelet is eyeing a new parking lot to serve its downtown core. (Andrew Bailey - Photo)

Ucluelet will host a public meeting on Oct. 3 to gauge the community’s opinion on a potential new parking lot downtown.

The district has a deal in place to purchase a 1.1-acre parcel of land at 1638 Cedar Road for $290,000 and has until Oct. 12 to make a decision on whether to buy it.

In a report submitted to council during last week’s regular meeting, Ucluelet’s Planner 1 John Towgood suggested purchasing the site and transforming it into a parking lot would be well supported by the town’s Official Community Plan.

“This property is centrally located in the village square and not only represents an opportunity for a central parking area, but it is also a key element for the breaking up the large block that is Village Square,” Towgood wrote. “The development of this lot, a central parking lot and pedestrian hub, could lead a revitalization of the adjacent properties with increased availability of parking and pedestrian traffic.”

He suggested Resort Municipality Initiative funds, collected by Ucluelet from the Provincial Government and earmarked for enhancing the town’s visitor experience, could be used to pay for half of the $290,000 price-tag, with other reserve funds being tapped to cover the remainder.

He added though that other costs would come into play if the district moved ahead, notably an estimated $100,000 to clear and develop the currently forested site as well as a traffic study to help design the lot’s layout that’s expected to cost under $1,000.

He suggested selling the district’s nearby Cedar Road parking lot, which Ucluelet paid roughly $200,000 to purchase and develop in 2012, could help cover the new lot’s development costs.

“The current parking lots creates a gap in the commercial streetscape, it is not as centrally located, and it is not a key to increased pedestrian connectivity to the area,” Towgood wrote.

Oct. 3’s public meeting will be held at the Ucluelet Community Centre at 7:30 p.m.

“I’m excited about it and I’m looking forward to hearing from folks. Hopefully we’ll get a good turnout,” Ucluelet mayor Dianne St. Jacques told the Westerly News. “It’s a good opportunity to have interaction with folks because we are spending taxpayers money on this, so we want to make sure that there’s an opportunity for everybody to come forward with their thoughts and ideas.”

She added the meeting would allow locals to give their opinions on what the space should look like.

“It’s always good to share an exciting project and I think this one is a real game changer for downtown,” she said adding the new lot could take RV’s off roadsides and enhance the walkability of Ucluelet’s downtown core.

“In my mind I see pedestrian walkways going up to Peninsula [Road] and then crosswalks going across and pedestrian walkways going out to Main Street…People could park in there and then walk around the Village Square area quite comfortably. I think it will really change things down there in a positive way.”

She said the amount of trees that would need to be cleared from the land is not yet known.

“We’d really like to keep some greenspace down there to keep an area where people can sit and relax, but we’ll have to wait and see really as far as the safety aspect is concerned because sometimes, when you clear out some trees, it leaves others open to the winds that we get and they become a bit more of a hazard,” she said. “We’ll have to have a really good look at it and, certainly, the hope will be that we can keep some greenspace down there.”

She suggested the finished lot would likely be gravel, but a final decision has not yet been made.

“Gravel is the best for us with all our rainfall as far as the water saturation because it hits and it sinks in. Whereas, if it’s paved, it hits and it flows somewhere so that requires a whole lot more drainage solutions,” she said. “At the same time we don’t want it to be full of potholes, so there’s some work to be done on that.”

She said she is not sold on the idea of selling the district’s current Cedar Road lot.

“Everybody is always loathe to sell a piece of property that we already have, but certainly that’s an option if we need the funds to develop the bigger, more central parking lot,” she said.

“We have to be fiscally responsible, so we’ll see how it plays out and what peoples’ thoughts are on it and also what the cost is going to be to develop the new parking lot.”

She acknowledged the current lot’s lack of success can partly be blamed on a lack of signage directing traffic to it and assured the new lot would not face the same problem.

“Signage is key,” she said. “We want to really get someone to come in and look at our traffic flow downtown and part of that conversation will be directional signage to the new parking area.”