Paid parking in Yarraville Village and Footscray CBD will be scrapped until the end of summer.
Maribyrnong councillors voted 6-0 in an often fiery special meeting held Friday afternoon to immediately suspend the operation of the parking meters in both areas, effective until February 29.
Councillors requested that chief executive Stephen Wall provide a further report in regard to traffic and parking management options in Yarraville Village and Footscray CBD to the February 16 ordinary council meeting.
The decision to introduce paid parking in Yarraville from 8am to 6pm Tuesday to Saturday has been dogged by controversy for more than 12 months.
Seventeen meters covering 97 parking spaces were rolled out late in August at a cost of about $120,000, but vandalised with glue before they were even switched on.
A second attack with a hammer and axe occurred a week later and in further embarrassment for Maribyrnong Council, cameras installed to catch or deter vandals were stolen within days of being erected.
ONE OF THE METERS DAMAGED BY VANDALS
Annual revenue from the $1.80 per hour parking fee was expected to be above $200,000, based on occupancy rates of at least 50 per cent.
Traders argue the machines have cut into their bottom line by as much as 30 per cent.
The matter came to a violent head in a council meeting on November 17 when councillors Grant Miles was coward punched in the head and Cr Nam Quach was body-slammed to the floor and kicked.
Police later charged a 61-year-old Yarraville man over the incident, which occurred when a move to rip out the parking meters was voted down by the two councillors along with new mayor Cameron McDonald.
Cr Sarah Carter, who brought a motion to Friday’s meeting as a compromise to ease the impact of the introduction of paid parking on traders over the holiday period, said the matter had “deeply divided” the council.
Cr Grant Miles moved an amended motion calling for a report on the paid parking impact, but it was defeated four votes to two.
Cr Nam Quach then moved an amended motion that the parking meters also be switched off in Footscray CBD.
The motion was passed unanimously, although the Labor councillors criticised the “ambush”, claiming Cr Quach had recently rejected that compromise.
Maribyrnong mayor Cr McDonald said the decision gives the council the time to gather and assess more evidence on the positive and negative effects the meters have had on traffic, traders and residents.
Yarraville Trader’s Association president Chris Xanthis said the decision means Christmas has come early for the traders of Yarraville.
“We are happy and relieved that the Maribyrnong City Council has finally listened to the legitimate concerns of its constituents and we applaud their decision to suspend operation, especially at our busiest time of year.
“It’s also a win for the residents of Yarraville and hopefully a return to the vibrant village atmosphere that we all love so much.”
Trader Trevor Junge said attention will now focus on the battle to remove paid parking entirely.
“We know they are hurting businesses. We have provided Council with plenty of information and we will continue providing it in the hope that they see reason.”
The Yarraville Village Says No To Paid Parking group, which remained low-key in the week leading up to the vote, released a statement in support of the decision.
“We look forward to supporting their further consideration of a sensible and appropriate, long term parking solution for Yarraville.
“We hope that this gesture will, in some way, of the pain that has been so readily felt by small businesses in Yarraville.”
A University of Melbourne ‘Yarraville Village paid parking study’ is also underway, with 10,300 randomly selected households from Footscray to Williamstown in the process of receiving letters inviting them to participate.