With concerns over losing customers, businesses on Madrona Crescent say workers from the nearby Comox Valley Hospital are not observing the one kilometre radius parking restriction, but Island Health says a solution should come within a couple of weeks.
Contracting company Graham Group, which was awarded the $331.7 million project, has the parking restriction built into its contract, but self-monitoring has not worked, notes Mike Finneron, owner of Valley Auto Spa Ltd.
“It starts at 6:30 in the morning, and employees have nowhere to park. We have every parking stall full and I have to move four vehicles to get one vehicle out of a bay,” he explains. “I’m paying $5,600 a month to be here, and customers see the cars and think I’m too busy; I’m losing business. It’s a huge problem.”
Finneron says it’s not only businesses on Madrona that are taking notice at the lack of parking enforcement, but also homeowners near Mission Road, where cars are lined up, clearly within the one kilometre radius.
“I had one guy park in my driveway, and I’ve had to call a tow truck. I can’t do business if customers are leaving right away because they can’t get into the lot. It’s just been a nightmare.”
Because there is an agreement in place between Island Health and Graham Group with respect to contractor parking, it is Graham’s responsibility to enforce the parking requirements, confirmed Lesley Hatch, director of engineering services for the City of Courtenay.
“The traffic regulation bylaw does not permit for timed parking restriction near the hospital site, or prohibit vehicles from parking in the vicinity of the hospital during the day,” says Hatch, and adds city staff meets regularly with Graham in order to pass on residents’ concerns.
Chief Project Officer of the North Island Hospitals Project Tom Sparrow explains the issue of parking has become a victim of the project’s success, with nearly 460 contractors on the Comox Valley worksite.
“There’s just way too many people working at these sites all driving a vehicle. So we’ve gone back to Graham and said: ‘You know what? It states specifically in our agreement that you guys are not allowed to have these folks park within a kilometre of the site so we want some action on this.’ ”
Sparrow says he’s hoping within the next few weeks the problem will significantly reduce, and adds Graham will have to look at a couple of options for a solution.
One option is to look at vacant land farther away from the site – possibly down Veterans Memorial Parkway – and bus workers to the site.
He has also inquired about the possibility of using the recently-constructed parkade, but there are some complications with that option.
Because the parkade isn’t completely finished – there is another layer of asphalt set to be placed – that presents one issue, he explained. Another is that the contract states the parkade must be in pristine condition when it is turned over to Island Health.
“If the labour force goes and uses it, it will mean they’ll probably have to put another layer of asphalt on.”
The other problem is that the parkade is technically on the worksite, and for workers to physically drive in without construction gear could present problems with WorkSafe BC. If there were another fence or road that separated the parkade to the rest of the site, workers may be able to use it.
“So I said let’s get some creativity here and see if there’s any way we might be able to use that parkade as well; (Graham) is trying. I have met with neighbours along here, and I understand their frustrations completely,” he says.
“We are trying to respond as quickly as we can. This is like a supertanker. It just doesn’t stop on a dime and the water keeps flowing.
“The workforce keeps growing. We are really, really trying and we’re putting a lot of pressure on Graham to meet the requirements of the project agreement, because it clearly stipulates that. I fully sympathize of what (business owners) are dealing with … unfortunately, it is going to take a bit of time. We don’t like to see this either.”