Friday, September 21, 2012

A "Lot" of Trouble

This week's edition of the Packet carries a story on the continuing saga of the parking lot at the Clarenville Shopping Centre.  Normally parking lots are not newsworthy but this lot is special - you own it!  (see story: A 'lot' at stake, The Packet)
In the context of 1966 when the lot was built, it made perfect sense for a community interested in growth, to develop a piece of land (that would become the Clarenville Shopping Centre's parking lot) so to encourage private developers to build a “modern’ shopping facility.  The idea worked, but the fact that someone neglected to write in a sunset clause into the development agreement that specified that ownership of the parking lot would transfer to the developers after a defined point in time is still haunting us almost half a century later.
So what’s the matter with the Town owning the lot you may ask? 
For starters the fact that “our lot” is 50 years old means that it needs a tremendous amount of very expensive maintenance – both below and on the ground.   If this maintenance is not done, at our expense, the lot will fall apart (all you need to do is look at it to see it is falling apart) and this in turn will pose a significant liability problem for its owners – us.   This increased risk will be reflected in our Town’s insurance rates which are paid by our taxes.  
Further, because we own the lot and are responsible for its upkeep, we are, in effect, subsidizing the businesses that operate in that mall.  The Co-op and other stores in the Clarenville Shopping Centre do not have to bare the same costs of maintaining a parking lot that stores like Walmart, Sobey’s and Canadian Tire does.  We are doing it for them.
It’s such a sweet deal for the businesses in the Clarenville Shopping centre that you can bet that they will not be too quick and too willing to give it up voluntarily.  With the businesses having all the bargaining power, the Town really only has two basic options:
1.    Pay to fix the lot to the point that the Shopping Centre Association will agree to take it, or
2.    Close the lot.   
Because neither of these options are politically acceptable (especially a year before an election), I fully expect we’ll be in the parking lot business for many years to come.

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