College students get costly parking lesson
An unidentified Niagara-on-the-Lake bylaw enforcement officer approaches a car to ticket it for interfering with snow plowing, in the Niagara On The Green subdivision, near Niagara College on Wednesday March 15, 2017 in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. Allan Benner/Postmedia Network
Dozens of tickets worth $50 each were left on snowed-in vehicles parked on the streets of the Niagara On The Green neighbourhood during this week’s snowstorm.
And although vehicle owners say they have nowhere else to park their cars to avoid the tickets, town bylaw enforcement officers returned to the subdivision near Niagara College’s Niagara-on-the-Lake campus Wednesday morning to issue dozens of additional tickets for hampering snow clearing efforts.
While some residents took to social media to cheer the town’s parking enforcement efforts, students and other property owners felt the fines added insult to injury.
Brock nursing student Stephanie Blais said she missed a class Wednesday morning while digging her car out of the snow to avoid getting yet another parking ticket.
“It’s affecting my school,” Blais said, adding she had an assignment to hand in during that class. “Hopefully I don’t get docked much.”
Blais said she’s one of seven students, including three with cars, who share a rented home in the neighbourhood. The semi-detached home, however, only has a single parking space.
Although parking is normally permitted on one side of most streets within the subdivision, the town’s parking and traffic bylaw 43408-09 allows vehicles to be ticketed or towed if they interfere with traffic movement or snow removal.
One students said he counted more than a hundred parking tickets on vehicle windshields in the midst of the storm on Tuesday — including a ticket on his own car.
“It’s our first snowstorm and it’s been a rough go here trying to deal with parking issues,” he said. “As soon as the snow comes, bylaw officers come and ticket every single car on the street. I counted them yesterday (Tuesday) and there were at least 100. And that wasn’t even half the neighbourhood.”
Students aren’t the only neighbourhood residents who have had to contend with parking tickets.
Resident Ruxandra Nicolescu said she understands the reason for issuing tickets, “but unfortunately, the problem is we don’t have a solution and people are getting tickets.”
She was also concerned about the vindictive attitudes expressed by some of her neighbours, who posted messages on the NOTG Neighbourhood Association Facebook group, saying: “Yeah, let’s give them tickets!”
“Everyone was cheering. I think that’s gross. It’s not nice,” Nicolescu said. “I cannot be part of this and I’m ashamed that my fellow neighbours are being ticketed. I cannot witness this and not say anything.”
Blais said she read some of those comments, too, and found them “unbelievable.”
She said about half the neighbourhood comprises “very large homes with maybe six parking spots and three-door garages. And then there’s student houses, with one parking spot and seven people living in them.
“We’re the ones who can’t afford ($50 fines), and they’re the ones who are laughing about this. It’s frustrating.”
She said the only viable solution is a community parking lot in the subdivision, to give visitors and people with multiple vehicles a place to park.
“Realistically, what household has one car these days? Most people have two cars,” Blais said.
Lord Mayor Pat Darte said the tickets issued for interfering with snowplowing is “everybody’s problem at this time of the year.”
“It’s the same problem everywhere. In the wintertime you can’t park overnight because our plows are out. Is it a difficult problem? Absolutely. Is there a solution? Not that I know of,” he said. “If you don’t plow the roads clear, people complain about that. And if someone gets a ticket because they’re in your way, people complain about that. It happens all the time, and there’s no really great answer to it. It’s just the nature of the beast.”
The recent parking tickets come in the wake of ongoing concerns being brought to town council’s attention regarding the increasing number of students living in the neighbourhoods surrounding the college campus.
Darte said the town’s Glendale Task Force, led by Coun. Paolo Miele, is working with the college to resolve issues related to off-campus student housing, including parking problems.
“We’re going to take a look at that whole thing in the next month to three months and get an assessment and see what we need to do,” Darte said.
The task force meets again next Tuesday.
In the meantime, Darte said there may be alternatives to parking on the streets — particularly following heavy snowfalls.
“There are other parking lots around there,” he said.
Darte didn’t know the total number of tickets that had been issued in the neighbourhood. Calls to the town’s parking services department were not returned Wednesday.