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Task force proposal launches parking debate at council

by Laine Sedore

A proposal from Belleville’s downtown task force had city councillors raising questions about parking at Monday’s meeting.

The proposal presented at Monday night’s council meeting consisted of a plan to revitalize Belleville’s downtown. Cutting parking in half on Campbell Street was one of the questions raised by council from concerned business owners.

Mark Fluhrer, the city’s director of recreation, culture and community services and spokesman for the task force said the proposal is a list of things to come.

“This is starting to dialogue about what could be for the downtown, what could be, for our community and where we might want to go,” he said in an interview.

The proposed plan to revitalize Belleville’s downtown is a two-year plan stretching from 2012 through to 2014. Putting in new sidewalks, lamp posts benches and increasing security are among the things the task force proposed along with making the waterfront more visible and making it an essential part of the downtown.

Although parking on Campbell Street was a major concern at the meeting, Fluhrer said parking is always an issue when doing revitalization.

“Parking is always an issue in every community, but Belleville’s expressed it in its way. We need to look at that in conjunction with traffic, look at it in conjunction with land use. In the bigger picture we have to look at parking as component of the overall design of the urban area,” said Fluhrer.

Councillor Garnet Thompson also said that parking in Belleville’s downtown is an issue.

“Parking is a concern, the big thing is, when people come downtown they have the illusions they’d like to park right in front of where they’re going,” said Thompson. “(Where) if they go to a mall they don’t mind parking a distance away. So we have to be careful we don’t eliminate all the parking in front of some of these businesses that depend on it.”

The public’s concern for parking on Campbell Street has been heard by council and by the task force. Fluhrer said that was the reason for the smaller proposal on Monday.

“It was brought in to try and clarify some things and give more opportunity to see what’s going on, and express their concern and to come forward and say ‘hey am I going to be involved and have an to get an opportunity to have a say,’ absolutely,” said Fluhrer.

Fluhrer said in order to revitalize the downtown you have to give it some exposure.

“The more that we get people aware of what’s going on the better the products going to be in the end,” he said.

Thompson said that hearing from business owners is a very important step.

“It’s the public out there that has to come forward and give us some constructive thoughts of what they would like to see and not do,” said Thompson “Unless we incorporate everyone into this plan it can go a stray very quickly.” he said.