Letter: The devil’s in the details – a history of the pay parking lot at the ferry terminal on Gabriola

Tuesday, September 20 2016

I’ve been asked by a number of residents, most who were either not here at the time or were too young to remember, the origin of the pay parking lot behind the pub at the ferry terminal. Here’s the story. 

I have lived here quite a few years and I can’t remember a time when lack of parking at the ferry hasn’t been a problem. In July of 1990, residents received some good news when it was reported in the Flying Shingle that a landowner with land in proximity to the ferry terminal would be constructing a parking lot that might eventually be taken over by the Department of Highways. The land was part of a large un-subdivided parcel situated along Easthom Road and up the ferry hill beyond Taylor Bay Road intersection. 

Six months later, in January 1991, one of the trustees at that time reported that the Islands Trust had received an application to rezone an area for ferry parking. According to the report, the parking lot had been dedicated by the owner and the land was currently being prepared, with the planning in the hands of the highway Ministry. At that time our ferry was considered part of the highway system, and it seemed that the government was finally stepping up to solve the parking problem. It seemed like a great step in the right direction. Unfortunately, the public was only told one half of the story, and a half-truth at that. 

The public was told that there would be a parking lot; what wasn’t mentioned was that the same bylaw also rezoned the land surrounding the parking lot to allow the creation of a separate lot for the pub, a separate lot and commercial zoning for the adjacent house, and four times the number of lots than previously allowed on the rest of the parcel. We were also never informed that the zoning allowed for parking kiosks, a clear indication that it was always intended to be a pay parking lot when we were lead to believe that it would be free for community use.

At the time the Islands Trust didn’t have the budget to pay for travel expenses for Local Trust Committee Chairs to travel to the different islands. Business was carried out mostly by Resolution Without Meeting or at meetings on whatever island the Trust Council quarterly meetings were held. There were few on island meetings and bylaws were not generally examined by the public.

It wasn’t until a few years later that it was noted that the bylaw allowed for parking kiosks, and also included a provision for a decrease of one public parking space for every commercial parking space required by the businesses on the adjacent commercially zoned lots as they expanded. When the trustees were questioned about these provisions, they informed us that the owner had dedicated the use of the land to parking, and not the land itself. 

Had we been more vigilant and examined the bylaw more carefully at the time (instead of blindly trusting that the reports we received from our trustees were accurately reflected in the bylaws) we would have realized that the parking lot zoning was for Commercial Use and not Public Use, which would have most likely affected the way people felt about the re-zoning.

This deal up-zoned a large area and made a great deal of money for the landowner; the least the community should have received in return is publicly-owned parking. To add insult to injury, when the parcel was subdivided we received the Trust Fund Board Millstone Park on Easthom Road as the required five per cent park dedication. 

This “park” is now entirely closed to the public and is considered a liability that the Trust Fund Board regrets taking. There is a hard-won lesson in this; if you’re looking for a favourable outcome for the community, the details are absolutely critical. 

~ Gisele Rudischer