Corisa Bell asked her colleagues Monday to ask staff about free hospital parking

Corisa Bell asked her colleagues Monday to ask staff about free hospital parking

Ridge council denies free parking motion

Coun. Corisa Bell asked council to investigate whether free parking is possible at Ridge Meadows Hospital in Maple Ridge

A councillor’s request to find out what can be done about pay parking at Ridge Meadows Hospital has been consigned to municipal lawyers.

Corisa Bell asked her colleagues Monday to ask staff to see what could be done following complaints about people getting parking tickets at the hospital. Member of a local group, the Rx Rockers, were even slapped with $60 fines after doing a charity Christmas concert at Baillie House.

First, though, council wants a legal opinion to see if it can even do anything.

“I don’t think we should say it should be free because we don’t know the consequences,” said Mayor Ernie Daykin.

While council can advocate for free parking, “to ask for free parking – nothing is free,” said Coun. Cheryl Ashlie, who wanted to know Fraser Health’s business reasons for the pay parking lots operated by Impark.

What is the alternative to user-pay parking? she asked.

One consequence could be a more crowded parking lot, where it would be difficult to find a parking spot, said Coun. Bob Masse.

Couns. Michael Morden, Masse and Bell unsuccessfully opposed the withdrawal of the motion, leading to a later decision to seek legal advice.

Maple Ridge should advocate for its residents because the issue is real, said Coun. Judy Dueck.

But it’s a Fraser Health issue.

“I have never been a fan of taking on provincial issues.

“What’s municipal work is municipal work.”

Maple Ridge can try to get Fraser Health to change its mind, “but I’m not prepared to take our staff time on something we have no control over.”

Dueck added of council: “It’s not fair to everybody that one person has got information and the rest of us don’t, because we’re making decisions that are not informed.”

She said she didn’t know that Bell was going to raise the issue.

“I feel ill prepared to make a decision without the background.”

But Coun. Al Hogarth responded: “There have been discussions on this so don’t make it sound like there hasn’t been.”

Bell said she discussed the topic with the mayor two weeks ago, adding the topic has been on TV.

“It’s happening everywhere,” Bell said.

“I feel it’s our responsibility to bring it to Fraser Health,” adding she’d like Fraser Health to attend a council meeting.

Daykin said last December that he had staff review the issue.

Fraser Health owns the Ridge Meadows Hospital property, much as a private title holder would. Council could face a legal challenge any time it passes a bylaw that places covenants on private property, said Daykin.

Daykin also had staff look at bylaws in other municipalities that have free parking at their hospitals, and found their situations differ from that of Maple Ridge.

In Mission, staff found that although people do not pay for parking, they do pay a hospital levy on their tax bill.

He also noted the parking fees paid at health-care facilities in Maple Ridge cover lot maintenance, and some added revenue is put back into the health-care system.

Delta has a parking bylaw that dates back to the early 1980s.

“It’s not municipal responsibility. We are not in the hospital business,” said chief administrator Jim Rule.