Surrey is making it easier for people to park around Surrey Memorial Hospital, but Maple Ridge residents are already getting a bit of a break.
The newly elected Surrey city council is giving two free hours of parking on streets that surround Surrey Memorial and is also asking that Fraser Health remove pay parking at its 2,041 hospital stalls.
But, “We don’t charge for parking anywhere on our streets,” said Coun. Judy Dueck, who dealt with the issue in 2013, when she was previously on council.
Former councillor Corisa Bell had pushed council to consider establishing free parking at the hospital.
But a legal opinion in 2013 told council that the only way the city can cancel or regulate parking fees at the hospital is if a public health bylaw is adopted under the Community Charter, with the approval of the Ministry of Health.
The opinion also said the city 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.
In 2017, Fraser Health agreed to review parking fees at Ridge Meadows Hospital.
Dueck said the issue didn’t come up during October’s election campaign and only one person has raised it since. She doesn’t plan on raising the issue at council.
In September, one of only three free parking stalls for lab patients was converted to general parking.
In 2016, parking at Ridge Meadows Hospital raised $617,000 a year, while region-wide, Fraser Health made $10-million a year from fees in hospital parking lots.
Dueck said that if parking becomes free, the taxpayer will have to pay for the costs somehow.
“It’s not free. It’s going to come out of a budget somewhere.”
Parking fees at Ridge Meadows Hospital are $3.50 for the first hour, $3 for each additional hour, a day rate of $8.25 and an evening rate of $5.25.
Dueck suggested that some of the stalls at the Ridge Meadows Hospital parking lot have the first hour free of charge, just to give people an option of parking for a short period of time.
But that idea needs to be reviewed by Fraser Health, she added.
”That’s easy to say, but what does that mean?”
The city has posted signs on nearby streets limiting parking to two hours and telling motorists not to block driveways, while some streets are resident-only parking.