A push to bring free car parking back to Warrnambool's CBD over Christmas has stalled with the councillor behind the move warning the city could become a ghost town.
Cr Peter Hulin said parking revenue was up by $90,000 on expectations so far this financial year, and it made sense to stimulate the struggling retail sector by giving shoppers some parking relief.
He put forward a motion to Monday night's public meeting calling for the council to consider free parking between December 9 next year and January 31, 2021, when setting next year's budget.
The plan is to have an hour of free parking at the start of the day and after 4pm in the city's three main CBD cark parks - Parkers, Ozone and Crammond and Dickson.
But the motion couldn't be voted on because two councillors not at the meeting and Crs Sue Cassidy and Mike Neoh declared a conflict of interest.
It left just three councillors which is not a quorum.
Cr Hulin said his original plan was to try and get some free parking this Christmas but there was "no appetite for that".
"I'm a can-do person. I understand that there are regulations within council structure but I believe when you talk to business people around the town, they really need some help," he said.
"The businesses in Liebig Street and around the town are really suffering.
"If we wanted to we could have made provisions to get this introduced for this Christmas period."
Cr Hulin said he'd written to the mayor Tony Herbert to see what the financial implications would be for the budget but hadn't received a response.
"Taking into account I think we're $90,000 better off than we thought we would be for parking funds, it may not be very much at all that it would cost us," he said.
"I'm extremely concerned about the CBD and the way the businesses are now really struggling."
"What I will raise next year is having a complete look at our parking strategy and seeing if we can't give relief and support to businesses in the CBD."
He said businesses, which were paying "enormous" rates, have had to move with the times but council had not.
"Council seems to be reliant on the revenue of the meters at the detriment of the actual businesses instead of trying to work with the businesses and accept that they are doing it tough, really tough," Cr Hulin said.
"Business has changed and if we don't change the way that we work with the businesses, we could have a ghost town in the middle of our city."
He said those who use the app were more likely to shop online but many of the grassroots shoppers who wanted to support the local businesses were still struggling with the complicated meters.
"If you go out to Gateway, you don't have to deal with that," he said.
More signs were needed to draw shoppers' attention to where all the paid parking was, Cr Hulin said after some of his customers had mistakenly thought parking was free because they hadn't noticed the signs or meters.
"Once they get a fine of $80, it certainly takes the shine off coming into the CBD to shop," he said.
Cr Hulin said Ballarat was now introducing the same type of meters as Warrnambool but offering free parking in the first hour
The three main CBD car parks were paid for by the businesses around them to ensure free parking for their customers, Cr Hulin said.
The council changed that because some workers were parking there instead of their customers, he said.
"I would have suggested that businesses got together and changed that and told their workers they weren't to park there," he said.
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