THE District of West Vancouver is easing back on parking enforcement after a litany of complaints from Ambleside shoppers and business owners.
A number of shoppers have been ticketed for overstaying the two-hour time limit in Ambleside, when, in reality, they had just visited the area for shopping and parked on the same block twice in a day. Shop owners say that is tantamount to punishing people for being good Ambleside shoppers.
The ticketed targets were running afoul of a 2007 bylaw that states no on may move their vehicle "from one location to another in the same block to avoid the time limit regulations specified in that particular block."
Bylaw officers routinely patrol the district with a vehicle-mounted camera that scans licence plates and tires, and flags them if they're spotted in a time-limited parking zone over more than a two-hour period.
"Our main intent with this section of the bylaw is really to encourage traffic flow so that we can help the businesses. What we heard was that it wasn't working very well," said Mark Chan, director of bylaws, First Nations and legal affairs for the district.
Chan said under a new approach, the district will only issue tickets "if we actually see the behaviour taking place."
The heavy-handed enforcement approach has been "ridiculous" and counterproductive, according to one Ambleside business owner.
"I've had two customers getting tickets because they came to my store at one point in the day and then came back," said Carmen Spadero, owner of Amadeo Bakehouse.
"In our radius, you can get quite a few things, but if you can't stop more than once, people are going to put it in their heads and they're not going to stop. They're just going to keep on going. We fight as it is with people trying to go to the mall."
Chan said his staff routinely see employees at Ambleside businesses moving their cars just a few feet to confound bylaw officers and then returning to work, though Spadero disputes how often that happens.
Several residents have also reported they were told by district staff they cannot or should not dispute their parking tickets.
But "that's not the way they've been trained to approach this," said Chan. Bylaw staff are only supposed to explain what evidence they have for a ticket, and how the dispute process works, he said.
While the district won't be handing out tickets without catching offenders in the act anymore, bylaw officers have already meted out punishment to a number people who found themselves violating the letter of the law, but not the spirit of it. Chan said those people will be getting a ticket amnesty.
"If you have received a ticket under that section and you believe you're not trying to avoid those time limit regulations, please contact us," Chan said.
That goes for people who been ticketed and already paid their fines as well, Chan added.
Questions over bylaws and enforcement are missing the larger point, in the opinion of Maggie Pappas, head of advocacy for the West Vancouver Chamber of Commerce.
"All of this harks back to the fact that we don't have enough parking in West Van, period," Pappas said.
While there is a problem with employees taking what should be customer parking, it is inevitable that a dragnet approach to enforcement catches people who don't belong in the net, Pappas added.
"I think a lot of people in the area are not paying attention to the spirit of the law," she said.
The bylaw is now being reviewed by staff, Chan said.