Over 50 people attend public meeting on parking woes around Metcalfe Gardens retirement residence

By Jennifer Bieman, The London Free Press

Management at Metcalfe Gardens is cautiously optimistic a resolution is on the horizon for the street parking regulations that have plagued the residence for over a year.

Over 50 people in total – including residents, their family members and staff at Metcalfe Gardens – met to discuss the latest developments in their ongoing struggle to improve the street parking situation in the courthouse neighbourhood.

While parking woes in other parts of St. Thomas are a straightforward municipal issue, the city’s agreement with the province to guarantee 315 parking spots within 300 metres of the Elgin Consolidated Courthouse has created a complicated back and forth between upset neighbours, the city and provincial government for the past year.

Metcalfe Gardens reached out to Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek, who brought promising news as the group rallies for change to what they consider oppressive restrictions.

Speaking at the meeting, Yurek said his office reached out to Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure Brad Duguid Friday and received a prompt response from one of his policy advisers.

“The policy adviser said it seems like a really quick fix and they are going to tell the ministry to get in touch with the city to have this meeting,” said Yurek.

“I can’t tell you if they’ve called the city yet, but they are communicating with my office which is better than what was going on a month or two ago.”

Yurek said Infrastructure Ontario had cancelled scheduled meetings with the city over the winter. He is hoping a meeting between St. Thomas staff and the province will take place in the coming weeks or on the sidelines of the Association of Municipalities Ontario Annual Conference in Niagara Falls in August.

For their part, Infrastructure Ontario said while parking management and enforcement around the courthouse are up to the city, the government agency is willing to work with staff to find solutions.

“Infrastructure Ontario has had discussions with the municipality regarding the parking agreement … and have presented options to address their concerns,” said Ian McConachie, communications adviser for Infrastructure Ontario in a statement.

“IO is open to continuing discussions with the municipality and the Ministry of the Attorney General regarding parking at and around the St. Thomas Courthouse.”

For Lori Lackey, general manager of Metcalfe Gardens, a workable resolution can’t come soon enough.

“We’ve had more progress in the last week than we’ve had in months,” said Lackey, who reached out to Yurek’s office.

“You don’t get anything done by sticking your head in the sand.”