Heidi Taylor of Taylor’s Fresh Flippers says she has always had trouble with parking on Harbour Drive in St. John’s. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
Every day it’s getting more difficult for Heidi Taylor to do her job.
She sells flippers from the back of her truck this time of year, halibut in June and cod periodically.
The Taylor’s truck has been parking on Harbour Drive in St. John’s for decades and that isn’t about to change, but Taylor told The Telegram Thursday finding a place to set up these days is rather taxing.
“I’ve always had trouble parking on Harbour Drive. Especially since we had to move to the east end. We were down on the west end before they started construction of the new building and there was a lot more spaces available, but this year has been horrible,” she said in between serving customers.
It’s gotten so bad Taylor said she has to park in a no parking area and wait for someone to leave. She said she was so frustrated Wednesday she broke down and called the city of
St. John’s and asked them why she was paying $500 a year for a vending licence and feeding the parking meter when she has to battle for a parking space every day.
“Sure I have to go home if I can’t find a spot to park,” she said.
“I wish they would just give us a spot. We’re only here temporarily. And I asked but the woman I spoke to said I had to speak to someone else, and he wasn’t in, and when I spoke to my brother he said not to bother, that he had a meeting with the city last year and the city won’t do anything,” said Taylor.
St. John’s Coun. Tom Hann, who has been in the news all week talking about the city’s public transit issues and downtown parking deficiencies, said Taylor is probably right.
He said the number of vending spaces for the downtown core was set by council and downtown businesses years ago and it’s unlikely to change.
“There are no spots on Harbour Drive that are dedicated to vendors. She can ask, but I don’t think it’s going to change,” said Hann, council’s representative on the St. John’s Transportation Commission.
He said the city and the downtown businesses identified five or six spaces in the core for vendors. They pay $1,500 a year to get a licence to park in one of these spots, which are limited because they’re in competition with local businesses that pay a fortune to operate. They also have to pay the $500 vending fee.
It’s hardly worth it to Taylor, who said she only operates about eight weeks or so out of the year from Harbour Drive.
“That’s a legitimate point,” Hann said when it was pointed out that Taylor sells a raw product. “She could absolutely apply and bring it to the police and traffic committee to see what the committee says.”
As for Taylor’s parking dilemma on Harbour Drive, Hann said that is about to get better. He said some of the parking meters on the west end, where Taylor’s truck is usually parked, will be freed up when the cranes and trucks being used to construct the office tower and parking garage at 351 Water St. are finished with their work.
Hann said several parking meters were covered by the construction company — for a fee — to give the equipment room to the ability to manoeuvre the street as they drove back and forth working on the building.
While the building won’t be open for another year or so, he said it’s at the point now where the cranes and big trucks have done what they were supposed to do.
“Now having said that, when the project is finished there is going to be 286 parking spaces in that garage for the public,” Hann said.
He said the parking study the city had done, and was just accepted Tuesday by council, identified 500 parking deficiencies in the downtown area. As a result the city did a public-private partnership with the office tower and came up with the 286 parking spaces. Hann said the city did the same thing with a project on Duckworth Street, which is also in the construction stage.
With those two projects the city got rid of the parking deficiencies.
That will bode well for parking in the downtown in a year or so, but for Taylor, that doesn’t secure her a parking spot today or any day in the near future.
“When I come here I usually have to haul into a no parking spot for about 20 minutes and wait for a spot to free up, then get a truck into a regular parking spot with no parking for a customer behind me, which is another problem,” she said, adding no matter what time of the morning she arrives the spaces are already filled.
“I understand they can’t give me a customer parking spot. That would be two spaces. I’m not too worried about my spot; I’ll do what I can to get in. But when the older customers come along, especially the ones with the canes, we’re supposed to tell them not to park on the road. Where do I tell them to go? Where do I tell them to park?” said Taylor, adding she understands double parking is an accident hazard.
Adding to the demand for parking spaces, aside from the meters covered for the office tower, is the fact construction is ongoing on two new restaurants next to the Keg on Harbour Drive, and the new harbour fence is being built.