Business owner peeved over parking

A Trail business owner feels like he’s being held “hostage” with hefty city parking fees.

A Trail business owner who looks to diversify his downtown operation said he feels like he’s being held “hostage” with hefty city parking fees.

After nine years of service, Jim Berukoff, owner of Valu Office Supplies, is converting 2200 square feet of the first floor storefront on Pine Avenue from retail to professional and business office use to house an engineering firm.

Based on the size of office space being converted, a city-zoning bylaw requires that four off-street parking spaces be provided for the business or office use that will most likely see people parking for longer periods of time.

If this parking can’t be provided on the property, the city allows downtown owners to pay $3,000 in lieu of each off-street parking space required. For Berukoff, this means $12,000.

“I believed enough in Trail’s business community and invested another $90,000 to offer a professional office space for an international company to stay in Trail,” he said in a letter recently presented to Trail council.

“Instead of being congratulated for achieving this great goal, I am now being slapped with a heavy-handed penalty.”

Trail rejected Berukoff’s request to waive the fee, noting that the purpose of this parking requirement is to fund a reserve for creating future parking facilities that ultimately benefit downtown business owners.

“The city’s monthly paid parking facilities have been consistently at full capacity since the parking meter rates were increased in the spring of 2010,” explained city administrator Michelle McIsaac in a report to council. “Future expenditures will be required to either purchase additional property for parking development or to add infrastructure to convert areas the city has available to paid parking.”

A draft revitalization plan created by the MMM Group, on behalf of the Downtown Opportunities and Action Committee, suggests a parking shortfall of over 100 stalls in the core.

“In this regard, the collection of monies needed to pay for such a structure is of paramount importance and why the regulation was developed in the first place,” added McIsaac.

Berukoff feels the time has come to abolish the bylaw, which he describes as “restrictive” and “prohibitive.”

“Surely, even councillors must be well aware of changing economic times and the impact on business development in Trail,” he noted. “Because of changing times, councillors must work towards updating restrictive bylaws in order to attract new businesses competitively and not to discourage business owners moving to Trail.”

In the last 12 years, there have been only three other applications for variance made under this bylaw.

Though Berukoff has to pony up the funds for the parking spaces, he has since requested to speak to council of his concerns about the bylaw itself. He is set to appear in council chambers at the next meeting in April.