By BELINDA SCOTT
RALPH Erthel says parking spaces at the Jetty are disappearing 'like snow in summer' and it's making him hopping mad.
Mr Erthel, the director of the Coffs Jetty Markets and a market stallholder himself, said Coffs Harbour City Council's heavy-handed enforcement of parking regulations in the market area last Sunday had also upset visitors, a foolish move in the busiest tourist season of the year.
He said with Sunday's parking blitz around market areas in Coffs Harbour having been widely-publicised locally, it was fair to assume that most of those fined by parking inspectors for offences like parking on footpaths were out-of-town visitors.
"If 50 people were fined and tell six others, that makes 300 people disgruntled with the town," he said.
Jetty Markets promotions manager Greg Softley said Bellingen Markets visitors parked on footpaths all around the market, as they did at many other markets on the North Coast and councils had discretion to be lenient about this.
He said council did not fine residents who parked boats and cars on footpaths during the week, while Mildura and Collingwood streets were wide enough to create angle parking.
An Edgar Street resident said market visitors sometimes parked on his lawn and had also blocked his driveway on occasions. Sunday's parking blitz was in response to complaints from residents.
Mr Erthel said development at the Jetty, like the Ocean Gem apartments and the new YHA youth hostel, had seen the disappearance of hundreds of parking spaces and council had not provided a single new space.
Mr Softley said even on non-market days, Jetty parking was becoming inadequate except for during quiet periods.
Mr Erthel said the Jetty Markets had been identified in a 2003 survey as one of the area's top three attractions locally, but the last parking blitz two years ago had been followed by a long-lasting drop in attendance of at least 20 per cent. He said the market not only provided 100 families with income, but was an important small business incubator.
Coffs Harbour City Councillor and former market stallholder Bill Palmer said in hindsight it might have been better to start the blitz with warnings, but those booked were still breaking the law.
"When I had a stall I made it my business to take my vehicle well away from the market. I don't think it's too much of a burden to walk a bit," he said.
Cr Palmer, who has tried unsuccessfully to persuade Coffs Harbour City Council to buy SRA land near the Jetty Strip for a council car park, said the Jetty's lost parking spaces had been unofficial and only available through landowners' good nature. He said he did not think the council had any plans for more parking at the Jetty.
He agreed there was no signage pointing to parking on the Jetty Foreshores, but said the foreshores parking closest to the markets was also 'unofficial'.