Parking in Fort St. John’s downtown core may not be free just yet, after Fort St. John City Council has chosen to look into the possibility of removing the city’s parking meters further.

On Monday, City Council passed a motion to determine cost estimates of hiring a third-party firm to do a comprehensive study of the City’s current parking bylaws and how they are enforced. In Addition, the study would be led by the City Planner to ensure it fits with the City’s current bylaws, Official Community Plan and its Downtown Revitalization strategy.

The situation is more of a traffic management plan than just a parking plan, the City’s Director of Facilities and Protective Services, Jim Rogers, told Council. Rogers says in the report that there are a number of different questions that need to be answered before simply removing the meters, including the impact on downtown businesses and how that impact will be measured.

Back in March, several meters were vandalised and never replaced. Rogers says since then, the City has received complaints from businesses about people parking in spots for long period of time and not allowing for customer turnover.

The City has had 282 parking meters located throughout the downtown area of which 151 are currently working. Furthermore, the report states the City does not have a specific strategy in place to actually collect any unpaid tickets.

City Manager Dianne Hunter told Council the issue might look simple, but the implications of removing parking meters could be a lot more complicated and should be examined in more depth. Hunter says the City has been hesitant to utilize any lots it owns for public parking until it has a downtown strategy in place.

The original proposal for the removal of parking meters was brought forward by Mayor Bruce Lantz, in April, when he asked City staff draft a report on the feasibility of removing all parking meters in the city for a six month period.

Lantz says his original intent was to simply hold the pilot project, see how it worked, without having to bring in outside consultants. However, he says he understands the questions that first need to be answered.