Ahead of the Edmonton Oilers’ home opener against the Calgary Flames Wednesday night, the city says it is getting ready to crack down on several illegal parking lots that have popped up north of the arena. Many are on parcels of land zoned for commercial use but not zoned for parking.
“With the opening of Rogers Place there have been some non-accessory parking lots that are operating without permits and some of them frankly, were operating before Rogers Place,” city planning director Kalen Anderson confirmed. “We understand that citizens have concerns over these spots and so we have an approach that we’re going to move forward with in terms of compliance and to ensure that any impacts around our surrounding communities are mitigated.”
Coun. Scott McKeen has been working with the Oilers Entertainment Group because they’ve had an application in to operate one gravel lot that’s been pulled and is expected to come back.
McKeen said considering the development they’re doing within the Ice District that will see about 2,000 spots underground – beneath buildings that are under construction – he’s not worried about their future plans.
“There might be some other illicit lots, I’ve heard, that are appearing without permits and if they don’t get rezoning applications in quickly, then as far as I know, the hammer will come down. It’s a pretty good one as far as financial penalties are involved.”
A rezoning proposal for several lots is expected to come before city council either late fall or sometime before the end of the year. McKeen said he’s hoping it comes soon.
“If somebody wants (a) two- or three-year parking lot, and we can design the zoning so that there’s a strong sunset clause that disappears after that time, then maybe we look at it.”
Anderson said they’re trying to strike a balance so the streets of McDougall aren’t clogged, and so that lots are created to handle the nighttime crush.
“We want to ensure that everything is done safely, that people have the right permissions and so forth,” Anderson said. “So in terms of a technical expectation of, ‘Did we technically not have enough parking?’ No. That wasn’t the problem. There’s a little bit of entrepreneurship, which is fine. It just has to be legal.”
As for fans going to events at Rogers Place that may park in these illegal lots, Anderson confirmed the vehicle owner isn’t at risk – the owner of the lot is.
McKeen said he’s received complaints from the nights of the opening concerts and the Oilers’ pre-season games. He said there are plenty of spots around downtown. You might have to just walk a little farther to find them. (sj)