Regina council delays final vote on proposed parking lot after finding out people are already parking there

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This lot at 2158 and 2160 Scarth Street is not supposed to be used as a parking lot until Regina city council approves a bylaw amendment. Cars could be seen parking at the location on Wednesday morning despite the amendment not yet being discussed at council.  (Richard Agecoutay/CBC - image credit)
This lot at 2158 and 2160 Scarth Street is not supposed to be used as a parking lot until Regina city council approves a bylaw amendment. Cars could be seen parking at the location on Wednesday morning despite the amendment not yet being discussed at council. (Richard Agecoutay/CBC - image credit)

A dirt lot in Regina's downtown sparked frustration and outrage at Wednesday's city council meeting after it was revealed that a company may have circumvented the will of council.

The lots located at 2158 and 2160 Scarth Street were once two unused homes. But as of Wednesday morning the homes were gone and an empty lot was left in their place.

Council was set to vote Wednesday afternoon on bylaw amendments that would allow the property to be converted into a parking lot.

However, it was revealed in the meeting that cars were already parking there.

"The democratic role of council has been short circuited by this process," said Coun. Bob Hawkins.

Circumventing council

The initial application to turn the space into a surface parking lot of 13 paved stalls sailed through council in July with a vote of 6-3.

The proposed lot would not be open to the public, but would serve as a private lot for an office building on Scarth Street.

However, the numbered company that owns the lots, 628470 Saskatchewan Ltd., was supposed to wait for final approval on a series of zoning bylaw amendments before creating a parking lot, city administration told council on Wednesday.

The numbered company is owned by Gordon Hipperson, according to the Saskatchewan Corporate Registry.

The bylaw amendments looked likely to pass all three readings as required until Anna Norris, a Regina resident, took council to task for what she saw as a failure to remain committed to its goals of creating a livable downtown.

"We know that surface parking is actively harmful to people, communities and to the climate," said Norris.

Norris said people were already parking in the space, meaning council's vote was meaningless.

"We know that the project has already proceeded under the assumption that today's activities are merely a formality. But the bylaw has not been passed, and this is only a formality if we choose to make it one."

Her comments appeared to change the mind of some councillors, who took time to ask pointed question of city administration over why this space was already being used as a parking lot.

The destruction of the two homes was separate from the bylaw amendments, administration said, meaning the owner of the lot did not need to seek permission from council to destroy the buildings.

However, any use of the space as a parking lot should still be contingent on city council passing the bylaw amendments.

A 'loophole'

Hawkins described the action as a "loophole" that administration should've been aware of and taken action on.

Coun. Andrew Stevens agreed with Norris, saying that the creation of a parking lot did not appear to align with existing bylaws.

"I think we should... stand pretty firmly on this issue and stop recommending the approval of these kind of initiatives," Stevens said.

Although the first reading of the bylaw amendments passed 8-1, the responses from city administration resulted in a 5-4 vote on the second reading.

An attempt to read the bylaw changes a third time failed 5-4. Support would've had to be unanimous in order to proceed.

Couns. Hawkins, Stevens, Cheryl Stadnichuk and Shanon Zachidniak were the votes against.

Now council must do another reading and final vote that, if passed, would result in the amendments becoming law.

That vote will likely come in September when council reconvenes after a two-week break.