A hill to die on?
Opinion: Dave Glover
Summer is once again upon us, and parking rates, south of King Street near the waterfront, beaches, and parks, are a bone of contention for many residents.
Residents of the county ask why they have to pay such high rates and why, since they live in Northumberland County, aren’t they offered cheaper rates? Recently, I observed a post on TripAdvisor complaining of higher rates on side streets.
There are a few things to consider. First, Cobourg is tasked with the upkeep of the Victoria Beach and the West Beach (renamed Waterfront Nature Park), the pier, waterfront/marina area and Victoria Park. It is responsible for ensuring an extensive area remains in good order and beautiful. Not an inexpensive task. Second, parking fees go directly into the town coffers to offset possible increases to Cobourg property owners, not fund maintenance. Third, most of the higher fees are levied during peak use hours.
Any folks wringing their hands and clutching their pearls about parking fees have plenty options. There are places to park for free downtown. They may not be close and will involve walking, but most people who visit or use waterfront/park areas are doing so for exercise, and so a few extra steps fits right in with maximizing their exercise time.
Then there are the many families who use our wonderful park facilities for family gatherings. They drop off what they don’t want to carry along with passengers, then they park far away where there is no charge. As with most things in life, convenience comes with a price. Parking on residential streets nearby the beach, is going to cost you.
Residents of Cobourg can purchase a parking permit for the season from the town hall or online via the link. townhttp://www.cobourg.ca/parking. Fees and rates are also available on the Town of Cobourg website.
Permit rates vary according to location if one is a town resident or an East Beach resident, with the latter fee being half the seasonal rate.
For many property owners, these fees may be a hill to die on. Homeowners in Cobourg, especially newer residents, rightfully point out that taxes are high already and parking costs are simply a money grab.
The town staff is more than aware of these complaints, I’m sure they’ve been plentiful since new rates were formalized in May this year.
Which brings me to why I find this all so interesting.
Interesting because Cobourg has only a few ways to cover costs beyond property taxes, and increasing fees is a tool in the municipality’s funding toolbox.
Growing up in Toronto, I remember when parking permits in residential neighbourhoods were implemented. Toronto residents, as in Cobourg, were incensed with having to pay to park in front of their own homes. It was particularly troublesome for those without access to a driveway or a garage.
One Toronto homeowner I know, preferred to do the jail time rather than pay. That may seem extreme, but for him, it was a matter of principle. He simply refused to pay for a permit. As a result, earned many an unpaid parking fine. This man knew how to save a buck and game the system. He would go to court for non-payment after three months or so of accumulated tickets and be court-ordered to do three days in custody. Doing weekend penance at the Don Jail. This may sound harsh, but knowing the Jail didn’t release prisoners on Sundays, his weekends were only a matter of hours. He was aware that by arriving at or before 11:30 pm on Friday, he would get processed and, around 12:30 am on Saturday, be released, serving his sentence in a matter of a few hours. In the long run, he saved a lot of money and never did purchase a parking permit.
Why share this anecdote?
Adding brevity to a not-too-exciting story for one. And, a reminder, there is always a way to game the system. The image of Cobourg residents doing weekends at ye olde Town Lockup to avoid paying for a parking permit is hilarious.
In my humble opinion, jacking up user fees to cover increasing costs due to inflation and a lack of funding from other levels of Government is forced on small municipalities.
Many who go to the town’s website to peruse the latest fee increases will note that these fees have almost doubled in just a few years. Given the high property tax rates compared to neighbouring communities, it’s no wonder Cobourg residents have little sympathy or patience with Northumberland residents demanding a fairer rate for themselves.
Cobourg residents alone pay to keep these facilities maintained and accessible for visitors, with no assistance from Northumberland County.
If Northumberland residents feel they deserve a better rate because they do all their shopping in Cobourg, I suggest they ask their local municipality to apply to the county to extend funding for the maintenance and operation of facilities in the Town of Cobourg.
The waterfront area, Victoria Beach, The Waterfront Nature Park, and Victoria Park are jewels of the county, jewels the residents of town pay to maintain.
Cobourg residents already pay a considerable price to live here, but they do live here.
The only question for me is how many are willing to forgo payment to do weekends in the Cobourg Jail?
Dave Glover is one of Northumberland’s well known cultural and political commentators. Thousands of listeners, both locally and around the world, know Dave’s because of his more than eight years on air delivering his “Drive Time” radio broadcast and over 15 years hosting political programs on a local community cable channel.
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