There is no doubt about it. The fallout from the parking tickets issued to people shopping, dining and sightseeing in downtown Little Current this past summer is not in the best interests of the businesses located there.
This came to a head with the publication, on this page in the September 16 edition, of a letter to the editor (‘Welcome to Little Current, now please leave’) and the online comments relating to it.
But the accusations of the four retired professionals who came to the community one day to lunch and to shop, all of whom received tickets, were not the first time local retailers had heard these complaints.
They have been having to hear them all summer long from their customers, ever since town council hired an outside security firm (CanCom Security from Wikwemikong) to enforce the two hour parking bylaw that has been in place for some time, but had previously seen more warnings than tickets issued.
The letter to the editor and the public discussion on the topic it unleashed indicates that, under the present circumstances, the downtown merchants have a problem that needs to be solved with the cooperation of the town council.
This is a public relations battle in which those who conduct their business in the downtown, and pay taxes to do so, have no direct say, except through their elected officials in who rests the sole authority to amend the bylaws, suspend it, choose not to enforce it or in any other way come to the aid of the business people who now feel they are directly impacted with each new ticket issued.
Over the past decade, the Little Current Business Improvement Area (BIA) has spent its own money to erect and maintain a series of large and attractive highway signs that invite visitors to come to Manitoulin Island and to visit their “unique downtown waterfront,” as the signs say.
Two of them are on the TransCanada Highway (one east and one west of the Espanola turnoff) and the other is located at the corner above the Little Current LCBO store, inviting visitors to turn here and come downtown.
For these downtown retailers, their cost of maintaining these welcoming signs must be seen by them with real irony just now in light of the contrary publicity they’re being handed.
It is clear there must be a change made in the parking ticketing regimen in downtown Little Current.
At the very least, the two hour parking limit, when it is enforced, puts this particular group of retailers at a disadvantage in comparison with other local Island communities where no such restrictions prevail.
But on its face, the two hour time limit that the bylaw is based on really does not make much sense in a downtown waterfront area where marketing dollars encourage tourist visitors to come, enjoy a meal, do some shopping in the considerable variety of shops and to enjoy a stroll along the front street docks, to admire the boats there (perhaps chat with some of the boaters), have an ice cream cone or other seasonal snack and then return to the front street where they’ve left their vehicle.
For someone on vacation, enjoying a variety of new experiences, the two hour time is an unreasonable one that has led to the ill will associated with these parking tickets.
The situation, as it presently stands, is not going to get any better and this, unfortunately, will be on the backs of the people who, so far, have done a good job of keeping downtown Little Current viable and interesting.
The businesspeople and the elected officials must come to an understanding of what is reasonable and do so as quickly as possible. The status quo is clearly unacceptable.