A letter from a lawyer for the District of Maple Ridge says it can’t do anything about pay parking at Ridge Meadows Hospital

A letter from a lawyer for the District of Maple Ridge says it can’t do anything about pay parking at Ridge Meadows Hospital

Heated debate over Ridge hospital parking

Letter from district lawyer suggests there are no easy answers

A letter from a lawyer for the District of Maple Ridge says it can’t do anything about pay parking at Ridge Meadows Hospital, but council isn’t done with the issue yet.

After heated debate Monday, Coun. Cheryl Ashlie is going to raise the topic the next time mayors and councillors meet with Fraser Health.

But council rejected a move by Coun. Corisa Bell to have all of council meet with Fraser Health, the Minister of Health Terry Lake, local MLAs Doug Bing and Marc Dalton, along with MP Randy Kamp and continue to investigate whether Maple Ridge can ban pay parking at the hospital.

“We asked for a legal opinion and we got it. Now we’re trying to figure it out whether we’re quasi lawyers,” said Coun. Al Hogarth. “We’ve gone through considerable expense and time over the question of parking at the hospital. I think we’ve done more than ample to try to address the public’s concerns.”

It’s time to hear how Fraser Health responds after Ashlie raises the issue at a municipal government advisory council meeting, he added.

Bell first raised the issue a year ago after people complained about getting parking tickets in the lots operated by Impark. Members of a local group, the Rx Rockers, were even slapped with $60 fines after doing a charity Christmas concert at Baillie House. They were ticketed despite having parking passes issued by the Fraser Health facility.

A five-page letter from the district’s lawyer concludes, the only way the district can regulate parking fees at the hospital is if a public health bylaw is adopted under the Community Charter, with the OK of the Ministry of Health.

But lawyer Gregg Cockrill doubts the minister would approve that.

The letter also says the district could amend its zoning bylaw, making the hospital zone conditional upon it providing free parking. But that could be challenged in court and Fraser Health could simply allow pay parking.

Mayor Ernie Daykin pointed out that the second line of the letter says it’s doubtful anything can be done.

“But did you read the whole report?” asked Bell.

“No, I didn’t,” Daykin said sarcastically, adding later he had read the report.

Daykin said if pay parking is removed, it could lead to a congested parking lot and for Fraser Health to ask Maple Ridge to make up the difference in lost revenue.

Bell, though, wanted a report from the bylaws department on the history of parking enforcement in the hospital area and how Fraser Health complies with Maple Ridge’s off-street parking policy.

There’s more discussion to be had, she added, and if council doesn’t, “we’ll have done a real good job of avoiding the conversation altogether.”

Ashlie raised a “point of order,” saying Bell wasn’t staying on topic to receive the report and was criticizing councillors for their response.

“I do not want to spend more staff time on an issue that does not fall under our jurisdiction,” added Coun. Judy Dueck, who moved the report be received as information.

Bell supported that, but still wanted a meeting involving both MLAs, Kamp, Fraser Health and the ministry, with all of council involved.

Ashlie, though, raised another point of order, asking the mayor to intervene, claiming Bell implied that she wouldn’t be able to represent council’s wishes to Fraser Health.

It’s clear that pay parking lies within Fraser Health jurisdiction, so council is spending time on the wrong issue, Ashlie added later.

“If we want to have a relationship with Fraser Health, we need to utilize that table and give them the courtesy of that discussion at that before we jump to the Ministry of Health.”

Daykin said Fraser Health knows about the issue and that Ashlie will report back to council, which could lead to another decision.

Bell still wanted to know why council didn’t ask for that before.

It has been raised previously, though, but Ashlie said council wanted a legal opinion.

“So can we call the question and move on?”

Under Sec. 906 of the Local Government Act, the district could also argue that Fraser Health is not providing free parking in its parking lot, as an alternative to on-street parking.

Cockrill notes in one case, under B.C.’s Local Government Act and the Ontario Planning Act, there could be a “strong argument” to restrict pay parking in lots that are required for condos or hospitals.

Then he argues most of the parking stalls in the lot were probably created before Maple Ridge’s bylaw came into effect.

Bell said if the hospital is considered a non-profit entity, it should be possible to regulate parking and wanted to find out more, and if free parking isn’t the answer, “what else can we collectively do to make the overall situation better?”