October 31, 2017 7:54 am

London city council does a U-turn, approves ‘temporary’ downtown parking lots

North facing view of 2 Albert Street

North facing view of 2 Albert Street

City of London

City council has decided to renew three ‘temporary’ parking lots in downtown London after all.

City politicians voted 12-2 Monday night in favour of approving three parking lots Farhi Holdings Corp had applied for renewal. The decision goes against a recommendation from the planning committee, which voted last week to renew only two of the three parking lots.

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Two of the parking lots are on Central Ave, the other is on Albert Street.

READ MORE: Heritage activists calls on London city council to end ‘temporary’ parking lot renewals

Despite being labelled as “temporary,” a staff report said the three sites have functioned as parking lots for 12-25 years.

London city council has been vocal about its desire to reduce the number of parking lots in the downtown as a way to spur development in the core. Ward 11 Coun. Stephen Turner made the motion that recommended approving only two of the parking lots, but said Monday he’d changed his mind.

“In the past week I’ve had a chance to reflect on it and the motion I made last week, I don’t think is appropriate to continue forward,” he said.

The lack of a downtown parking strategy and not providing owners with adequate notice were the reasons for the reversal.

READ MORE: London city councillor to take on private parking lots

Coun. Jesse Helmer and Maureen Cassidy voted against approving the three parking lots, Coun. Phil Squire was away.

Turner wasn’t the only council member to change their vote from last week, Mayor Matt Brown said he’d also changed his mind.

“It’s something I’ve been reflecting on over the past week as well and I don’t think it’s the right approach. That’s why we have the ability to have a week between a committee meeting and a council meeting, it provides the opportunity for pause, reflection and sober second thought,” said Brown.

Councillors once again lamented the lack of a downtown parking strategy but were told by city staff it will be presented in early December.

READ MORE: HonkMobile to offer new option for municipal parking in London

“We need a pragmatic, we need an integrated and we need a holistic parking strategy. I’ve been waiting for it for about ten years,” said Deputy Mayor Paul Hubert.

A preliminary recommendation of the parking strategy is to consider a gradual transition away from temporary surface parking lots as the downtown develops.

The London branch of the Architectural Conservancy Ontario had called for all the renewal of all three lots to be denied arguing they were a threat to heritage buildings.

The ACO says owners of parking lots are unwilling to sell the land, putting heritage properties at risk.

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