City businesses warned against commandeering public parking spaces

By Orville Williams

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Commercial operators in St John’s are being warned by the Police Traffic Department to refrain from commandeering public parking spaces as they have no legal authority to do so.

Motorists have complained for some time about this practice, where people associated with certain businesses in the city often place cones, wooden pallets or even random objects to reserve parking spaces for their vehicles.

It has also been observed that some of the companies guilty of this offense use public parking lots for greater ease of movement, whether for the delivery of goods or for the comfort of their employees.

But motorists say finding parking in the city is already a difficult challenge, and they are often forced to use paid parking services or park well outside of town, drive in to do their business, and then to make the long journey to their vehicles.

Seeing blocked and unused public parking spaces, they say, only infuriates them.

Traffic Department Chief Superintendent Rodney Ellis told the Observer that except for people or businesses that have been given official permission to reserve certain parking spots, no one is legally allowed to block a public parking space.

“[The practice] is illegal – we have no agreement with anyone allowing them to put paddles, cones [or other objects] block any parking space in the city.

“If you get [permission for] reserved parking through the police commissioner, you will receive a letter from the commissioner authorizing you to have a reserved area which should be marked ‘reserved’ in yellow paint.

“It would be legal if you had it, however, you’re not allowed to put anything up to block off a parking lot in the city,” Ellis explained.

The superintendent also noted that while people have the right to use all vacant public parking spaces in the city, he would not encourage anyone to get into an argument over it.

What he said he encourages is people to report such incidents to the police, so that law enforcement officers can intervene if necessary.

“If you’re driving up there and you have to park, you see a pallet and you move it, there’s nothing wrong with that. [However], I would not advise anyone to confront anyone.

“Report it to the police, because although you would be within your rights if you move a pallet if you want to park, you can avoid confrontation.

“I would advise my officers, when on patrol, to drive around and warn people who are [guilty of the practice] refrain from doing so, Supt. Ellis added.

Work on the Sunshine Hub car park – billed as the first solution to parking problems in St John’s – was previously due to continue as planned, with the government saying last year that work would not be hampered by the impact of Covid-19 pandemic.

Unlike other infrastructure projects underway or planned for the future, the car park is managed by the National Asset Management Company (NAMCO), whose available resources – according to the government – are “not limited by considerations of treasury within the Treasury itself”.

The completion of this project would go a long way in alleviating the problems encountered by motorists and would give commercial operators in the city greater flexibility to carry out their work efficiently.