Attorney General to review city parking changes
The Attorney General is to review a controversial plan by the cash-strapped Corporation of Hamilton to introduce “aggressive” car clamping and pay-and-display parking tariffs on all roads in the city.
The scheme, which will be phased in from next month and will also mean more traffic wardens on the streets of the capital, was announced on Sunday and is aimed at increasing revenue for the municipality.
But a question mark now hangs over whether it will be implemented after Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy met with Mayor Graeme Outerbridge on Tuesday to discuss the changes.
A statement issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs last night said Senator Fahy sat down with Mr Outerbridge and Corporation chief operating officer and secretary Ed Benevides “to discuss the Government's concerns with the proposed Hamilton Traffic and Parking Ordinance 2013”.
The statement continued: “It has been agreed that Corporation representatives will meet in short order with the Attorney General's representatives to examine the ordinance prior to it becoming effective. The public shall be updated in due course.”
Bermuda Chamber of Commerce said it would keep a close eye on the scheme to see how it affected business in the city.
And the Opposition called on the Corporation to hold off on the changes for a year, claiming they could impact shopping and “usher in another round of redundancies in the already shrinking retail sector”.
Senator Renee Ming said: “The PLP joins with the Chamber of Commerce in questioning the Corporation of Hamilton's changes to parking in the city. We share their view that this move will create yet another obstacle to encouraging consumers to support local businesses in Hamilton.
“This move is likely to further erode consumption and negatively impact retail sales, all of which could usher in another round of redundancies in the already shrinking retail sector. In this economy, it simply isn't worth the risk.”
The Progressive Labour Party senator said the average Bermudian was already being asked to sacrifice enough through pay freezes, pay cuts and job losses.
“An additional burden is not needed at this time,” she said, adding that the Corporation of Hamilton was soon to benefit from the ability to collect wharfage fees again “and with it an influx of revenue”.
Sen Ming added: “We call on the Mayor and his team to reconsider parking changes for one year to assess if this new revenue will meet their financial needs. We also believe that an assessment of the existing quantity of residential, paid and commercial parking is needed to determine what, if any, changes are needed to reflect 2013 Bermuda and beyond.
“We ask that the Corporation join with us and other stakeholders in trying to preserve and grow jobs in this vital sector of our community.”
A Chamber spokeswoman said: “Like members east and west, our city members have yet to see any upswing in the economy and they are all extremely cost conscious.
“It will therefore be imperative for the City [of Hamilton] to ensure that they implement these changes in a fair and equitable manner so as not to anger or deter potential customers.
“While we appreciate the City's needs to find additional sources of income, it is equally important for them to ensure that the city remains alive and vibrant.”
Mr Benevides revealed in a press release on Sunday evening that the municipality would begin “aggressively clamping cars parked in spaces designated for residents” in Hamilton in October.
He said: “Up to now, the City has been responsible for clamping in city owned car parks only, while traffic wardens, who work for the Bermuda Police Service, have been
responsible for issuing parking tickets throughout Hamilton.
“We often hear from residents that parking spaces designated for them are continually used by motorists without their expressed permission. We will be addressing this matter by aggressively clamping cars parked in spaces designated for residents.”
He said street parking rates would be introduced on some streets which were currently free to park on and other parking rates would change.
“It is anticipated that in mid to late October, all streets in the city will become pay and display streets,” said Mr Benevides.
The plan sees Hamilton divided into three parking zones, with different prices for each:
* Zone 1 parking, covering all streets between Front Street and Church Street, including Church Street, will cost $2 an hour;
* Zone 2 parking, covering all streets between Church Street and Dundonald Street, including Dundonald Street. will cost $1.50 an hour; and
* Zone 3 parking, covering all streets between Dundonald Street and North Street, will cost $1 an hour.
To see the full ordinance and the parking zone map, click on the .pdf links above.
Mr Benevides said the increases were necessary in order to raise revenues to fund infrastructure projects that had been neglected in recent years.
His announcement came shortly after a five-man Corporation delegation returned from a ten-day trip to Colombia, which cost tens of thousands of dollars, to attend a conference.
Former Chamber of Commerce President Stephen Todd said the car parking announcement came somewhat as a surprise.
“I wasn't aware of the plans on the part of the Corporation but I understand their reasons to do so,” he said. “Clearly this affects the people who have been parking in Hamilton parking areas where they don't have to pay and they may decide they would rather conduct their business elsewhere or look for alternate means.
“If they decide they don't want to come into the city, that's going to affect business.”