Council has little sympathy for woman's parking woes

'This is not the Ritz Central where people are buying $489,000 condos. These are people on the lower scale and I think it's unfair'

The City should repay the tickets and towing bills that Sheila Zilinsky racked up when she couldn't access the underground parking at her apartment, and it should take out the parking meters so residents don't get dinged in the future.

That was Zilinsky's request to council Tuesday - a request that was met with some sympathy, but no action.

Zilinsky told council there are times she can't get through the back alley to reach her parking space in the Elizabeth Court building at 130 St. Paul St. Sometimes, ambulances, police cars and service vehicles are blocking the way so she parks on the street.

Even though, by her count, 87 per cent of her street is residential, there are two-hour parking meters on the road.

So she has racked up parking tickets and three tow bills in the year and three months she has lived at the building. The towing alone has reached almost $500.

Zilinsky also accused bylaws staff of targeting her. She said she submitted a video of an officer standing by her car for 20 minutes, waiting for the meter to run out so she could be ticketed again.

"No one else here gets charged to park in their residence driveway," she said.

Parking at a downtown apartment is different from a single-family home in a purely residential area, noted Coun. Arjun Singh. The meters keep people from taking up street space all day.

If the meters in front of Zilinsky's building were taken out, the City would have to remove them in front of all downtown apartments, Singh said.

Zilinsky pointed out the people at Elizabeth Court are disabled or low income.

"This is not the Ritz Central where people are buying $489,000 condos. These are people on the lower scale and I think it's unfair," she said.

"I'd like my fees back. I have a history of contentiousness with the City. They called the police on me at the City office when I wanted to get it in solved. To me, it's draconian."

Elizabeth Court has 52 units and 40 parking stalls. Because it is a low-income building downtown, the City allowed for fewer stalls on the assumption many residents would walk or use transit.

Mayor Peter Milobar asked if the City has given her any breaks.

Zilinsky said there was one meter that proved to be wonky and she got that ticket waived. The City also covered one of her four tows because of that.

City community enforcement and safety manager Jon Wilson said Zilinsky's is the only parking complaint from that area.

Even if the meters were removed, the City would put in two-hour parking limits to match neighbouring streets, he said.

Wilson also said the only time staff have stood around Zilinsky's vehicle was when they were waiting for the tow truck, not waiting out the meter.

Singh said the access to the building parking is an issue for the apartment manager, not the City.

Council unanimously passed a motion that Zilinsky and staff work on coming up with a payment plan as long as she doesn't incur any more parking infractions.

Coun. Tina Lange made another motion asking staff to review Zilinsky's videos and talk to the RCMP, possibly even checking whether there is video surveillance footage from nearby buildings at the times when the infractions occurred.

Milobar rejected the idea, saying doing all that would cost more in staff time and resources than the towing charge total.

"The motion is turning this into a murder investigation," he said.

If council accepted the tickets were valid in the previous motion, then the towing charges should also stand, he said.

The motion was defeated.

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