Parking smozzle

Bonobo’s customer Katelyn O’Connor returns to her parked car in the store’s lot on Wednesday.

Bonobo’s Foods customers are being ticketed for parking infractions every day the small local business is open.

The vegan-friendly restaurant and specialty food store has been operating on the corner of Oliver Road and Ray Boulevard for nearly eight years and as the business has grown its customer base, parking has become an issue.

After applying for a zoning bylaw amendment, manager Morgan Zimmer said they approached city council and the city’s planning division in November with a proposal for the parking issue.

That proposal included eight perpendicular parking spaces along the city boulevard directly adjacent to the restaurant.

But after safety concerns were raised, they were sent back to the drawing board.

“Immediately after that meeting, there started being, all of a sudden, a parking authority guy outside of our business every single day we’re open,” said Zimmer, adding Bonobo’s is only open four days a week.

Before Bonobo’s was in operation, the building has housed some type of business for decades and Zimmer said customers have always parked at the perpendicular (90-degree) angle.

“Now after that meeting, everything has to be parallel parking,” she said. “What was 10 spots would now be turned into three or four.”

Anyone who parks perpendicularly, doesn’t adhere to calendar parking rules or parks too close to the intersection is ticketed.

Zimmer said she understands the rules need to be followed and they have been encouraging their customers as much as possible to obey the parking rules.

“It’s a big mess right now,” she said. “We’re trying our best. We have signs everywhere. It doesn’t look pretty, I’ll tell you that.”

The city is also telling Zimmer they have to rent the boulevard from the city from now on at a cost of $2,000 a year.

Bonobo’s has been using the boulevard without issue since it opened its doors and so has every other business that operated in the building previously, added Zimmer.

“All of a sudden they want us to pay rent on it,” she said. “Who’s to say that isn’t going to go up and we also have to insure it.”

Zimmer said she and other store employees have walked down other nearby streets and noticed tickets were not being given for parking infractions in those other locations.

“It’s just our street they’re focusing on and that’s why we feel like we’re being targeted,” she said.

When Bonobo’s staff contacted Thunder Bay’s parking authority about their concerns, they were told the city had received complaints about the parking situation.

Parking authority supervisor Jonathan Paske said complaints have been received about the Ray Boulevard and Oliver Road area and, while complaints don’t entirely drive enforcement, it does help the city prioritize enforcement efforts.

“Our officers enforce parking bylaws all across the city where complaints are received as well as where there are known and chronic parking issues,” he said in an email.

“Officers will also enforce other violations when noticed, but our resources are limited and we cannot be everywhere in the city,” said Paske. “Our officers will enforce similar infractions to all vehicles in violation when they are in an area.”

The city’s planning division is hosting a drop-in neighbourhood meeting tonight from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Oliver Road Community Centre to see if any area residents have suggestions for solving the parking problem at Bonobo’s.

“I don’t really know what will come out of it,” said senior planner Decio Lopes. “That’s why we’re going to the neighbourhood. They know best.”

Lopes said the eight perpendicular-space option was the best solution the planning division could come up with last November and that same recommendation could still stand.

“There really is no other way to fit those spaces but with the option the planning division at the time was offering,” he said, adding that for 90-degree angle parking to be permitted, other rules would have to change in conjunction with the zoning bylaw.

McKellar Coun. Paul Pugh said Bonobo’s is being targeted, but he’s not sure if it’s the parking authority, or the residents filing the complaints, that are targeting the business.

Pugh said the planning division staff worked long and hard to come up with a solution to address the safety concerns, while also trying to keep a small, viable business open.

“Both of which are important objectives,” he said, adding there needs to be a resolution on the issue.

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