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Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay has decided to pull the plug on a plan to allow city boroughs to set their own parking-meter rates.


The announcement comes less than five hours before angry Plateau Mont Royal mearchants were to descend on city hall on Monday night to protest against a plan to raise local parking rates to $3 an hour, a hike that was supposed to help local businesses, but has done little more than raise concerns more customers will be driven to the suburbs to shop.


“We tried to negotiate an agreement with (borough mayor Luc) Ferrandez,” said Michel Depatie, director of the Société de développement de l’avenue du Mont-Royal, one of three merchant associations in the borough. “We were open to the idea of reinvestment (of parking meter revenues into local business development), we need one ... except that Mr. Ferrandez’s message was only: ‘We’re raising parking meters to $3 an hour’.”


Depatie said a meeting of members of all three merchants associations last Wednesday saw more than 250 business owners unanimously reject the parking plan announced last month, a vote of non-confidence in the borough administration passed and only three of those present voted in favour of sitting down with Ferrandez to work out a deal.


“That’s why there’s a demonstration tonight.”


Ferrandez was not immediately available for comment, but on Friday wrote on his blog that the merchant’s anger was misplaced.


“There is not always a link between the prosperity of a business and the number of parking spots on its street,” he wrote. “I know it sounds bizarre, but the facts back this up.”


On Oct. 28, Ferrandez and Projet Montréal leader Richard Bergeron announced as of Jan. 1, 600 extra parking meters would be installed in the borough, and the rate for all metered parking would be increased to $3 an hour.


Ferrandez blamed the borough’s debt and cuts to borough funding expected in the city’s 2011 budget for the move, which he estimated will bring $6 million annually.


However, Ferrandez said one-third of the annual revenue from parking meters would be reinvested into the promotion of local businesses and cultural events.


But Monday, Depatie said Ferrandez had refused to sit down with merchants to discuss how that money would be spent and ignored a request that the parking hikes be spread over two years rather than brought into force in January.


While Depatie last month had been critical of the policies of the administration of Mayor Gérald Tremblay, policies he said had led to the economic stagnation of Montreal and the budget crunch that made the parking meter hikes a necessary evil, he and his fellow merchants are turning to Tremblay on Monday night for aid, asking that an executive committee decision to give boroughs the power to set local parking rates be rescinded.


(Courtesy of The Montreal Gazette)

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