Council bets on parking cure for loitering issue

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Steinbach councillors are hoping new parking regulations will solve a problem that has nothing to do with the parking itself.

Residents of Cottonwood Drive and Cottonwood Bend, signed a petition calling for a daytime parking ban to keep local high school students away from the walkway connecting Cottonwood Drive to McKenzie Avenue.

“The north end of the walkway on Cottonwood Drive has become a daily smoking, drinking and drug hangout/pick up location for the students of the Steinbach Regional Secondary High School that has become intolerable with almost daily calls to the RCMP for assistance,” Cottonwood Bend resident Kory Kowalchuk wrote in a May 21 letter to council.

Accompanied with a petition signed by 11 people from the neighbourhood, his letter asked for parking restrictions during the day, to keep the students from gathering.

Council pushed the request to administration, asking for input.

However, administration recommended not to implement the parking restrictions, pointing out parking was not the issue.

“The intent and purpose of public on-street parking restrictions is to provide for more efficient usage and management of vehicular traffic present on the streets,” City Manager Troy Warkentin wrote in his report. “It has not been suggested by the writers that the volume of traffic present on the streets is what is resulting in the issues being identified but rather the behaviours of those parking on or otherwise using those streets.”

He goes on to write that imposing parking restrictions as an attempt to manage social behaviours is beyond the scope of the purposes for which parking restrictions are intended to be used.

“If parking restrictions for certain streets are implemented as requested, it may have the unintended consequence of moving the issue to another area rather than resolving the identified issues,” he wrote.

This isn’t the first time the issue has been brought up. Council has heard from residents in 2004 and 2018 on the same matter.

Coun. Jac Siemens made the motion to institute a parking ban from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday on Cottonwood Bend and Cottonwood Drive despite administration’s recommendation, admitting it is “outside of policy”.

“They are correct to think that restricting public parking in this area doesn’t make sense because it’s not a street that has parking issues,” he said. “The issue we’re trying to solve isn’t necessarily related to parking.”

Siemens wasn’t sure the restriction would even help, but said it shows residents that council is listening.

“The issue as a whole is complicated,” he said. “I don’t know exactly how to solve it. This might be a step in the right direction.”

Coun. Michael Zwaagstra seconded the motion saying clearly the neighbourhood wants to see something being done.

“The intended impact here is so that if takes away the incentive to park in that area,” he said.

He defended the decision to strip parking from the streets during the daytime.

“I would have more concerns about this course of action if it was being done without neighbourhood input,” he said. “In this case here, a significant number of neighbours have signed this request so they are aware that by restricting parking from 8-5, that means you can’t park on that street.”

All councillors voiced their support for the resolution, many saying it was time for action.

“We don’t know if this is going to solve the issue, but it’s a step in the right direction,” Coun. Jac Siemens concluded.

Mayor Earl Funk also supported the parking ban, saying he’s received “countless phone calls” on this issue. He too called it a “step in the right direction” adding he’d like to see the city meet with Hanover School Division in the fall to determine further steps.

“It’s become a community concern,” he said.

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