With some calls for no parking or maximum parking, city councillors chose a middle route Tuesday when deciding on the future of the parking lot in Bell Park.
The lot was used by the St. Joseph's Health Centre until 2010, when the city's hospitals were amalgamated into Health Sciences North. It was used for hospital staff parking until HSN acquired land from a neighbouring golf course to build a new lot.
The city has been trying to decide what to do with the 320-space, 3 1/2-acre lot – use it for events at the park, or regreen it and reintegrate it back into the park.
The option councillors approved Tuesday would see about 96 parking spaces maintained, with new storm water infrastructure installed and the creation of a new path leading to the park itself. It will cost between $800,000 and $900,000.
But some councillors wanted to maximize the number of spots. That option would have kept 220 spots, included minimal regreening and cost between $660,000 and $730,000.
Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier said he couldn't understand why they would take spots out of an area that needs parking spots. When he was a kid, he had a job helping families and seniors cross from York Street lot into the park.
If they retain more parking spots, Montpellier said fewer people would have to cross busy Paris Street to access the park.
“So I find it ironic we're chopping away at parking spots,” Montpellier said.
And Ward 5 Coun. Bob Kirwan couldn't understand why they would eliminate so many spots just to plant more trees. A stormwater management plan is part of all the options, he said, so it has nothing to do with protecting Ramsey Lake.
“Why don't we maximize the number of parking spaces?” Kirwan said. “There's no benefit to having all those additional trees.”
Ward 8 Coun. Al Sizer, however, supported an option that would have reduced parking to 10-20 spots, with half of them designated for people with special needs.
But most councillors backed the middle option as the best way to maximize regreening and parking.
Ward 6 Coun. Rene Lapierre said they had to remember that a big part of the city relies on water from the lake.
“This is our drinking water,” Lapierre said. “And we never had parking there before. It was the hospital. So we're not losing any parking spots.”
Infrastructure GM Tony Cecutti said there was no real difference among the options in terms of impact on the drinking water, since all included stormwater management plans and creating a link between the lot and the park.
And since the lot won't be used in the winter, the chances of salt-contaminated snow leaching into Ramsey was minimal.
“There will be no parking in the winter,” Cecutti said.
Tender for the work is expected to be issued this year.