Business owner Joanne Nicolato was the first resident to advocate for what is now known as the Aldergrove Credit Union Community Centre (ACCUC).
Nicolato, who fought for the pool for seven years, said she has witnessed its impact on the community since opening in June.
She recalls going into the centre this winter and seeing local families utilize various recreation elements.
“I watched a man and his 14-year-old son go up to the gym, I watched students go to public skating, and people go into the pool all at once. And I just started to cry [tears of joy],” Nicolato told the Aldergrove Star.
“I realized the community finally has a place to meet,” she said.
But what Nicolato did not account for – as the owner of Alderbrook Health and Wellness Center in a strip mall adjacent to the ACUCC – was the parking fiasco that would arise as a result.
Nicolato took up shop in January 2016 with a vision “of making people feel more comfortable, not clinical, and still getting their health needs met,” with massage therapy, clinical counselling, chiropractic, and naturopathic services.
But the lack of available parking has in fact been a source of stress for both Nicolato and her clients, she said, who are often stuck circling the mall lot in search of parking spots to get to their appointments.
She’s not alone in being frustrated by the congestion.
For the six other commercial tenants that occupy the mall at the corner of Fraser Highway and 270th Street, including a doctor and hairdresser, it has been a constant battle to keep parking spots in front of their shops so that appointments run smoothly and customers remain happy.
“How do you keep going with all of that stress? We’re pulling our hair out,” Nicolato said.
The Langley Township owns both the ACUCC property and an adjacent one that the strip mall sits on.
“We’ve had patients with disabilities who’ve had to walk long distances to get to the doctor’s office,” she explained.
The owners of another business, Hirame Sushi, has taken it upon themselves to put up bright green poster boards that read “restaurant customers parking ONLY.”
Out of the 59 parking spots that line the lot outside of the strip mall, 32 are clearly marked and set aside for mall patrons and have been since the construction of the ACUCC.
“The Township took half of our spots,” Nicolato said, explaining that parking has been included in her lease, though the amount is not specified.
Before the ACUCC, her customers had the whole lot to choose from when parking, she said.
Up until this summer, several mall parking spaces went unmarked before the Township commissioned the painting of “mall only” spots.
Nicolato said that “this summer has been worse because now everyone knows that the pool is here.”
Essence Hair Studio has provided hair care and styling services for 17 years out of the strip mall.
Owner and hairstylist Marina Alizada said that pool visitors often ignore the “reserved for mall tenants and guests” signs the Township installed and blatantly park in mall-designated spaces.
“My customers have to look for parking before they come. That takes a long time and sometimes they can’t even find any,” Alizada said.“Especially during the summer.”
One local customer, Jeff Stewart, expressed his concerns about hard-to-find parking at the strip mall.
“The other day I could barely maneuver through the parking lot, let alone find a spot,” Stewart said.
The Aldergrove Star reached out to the Township’s property manager Scott Thompson and was told that the Township has “been working on plans over the past four weeks to regulate parking for mall tenants and customers.”
The only solution Nicolato sees is for the Township to “give the entire parking lot back” for mall parking, and ticket and tow any violators.
“We had no problems before when it was that way,” she added.
As it is, Nicolato said it is confusing for motorists.
“People ask me ‘well which is mall parking and which is not?’”
Nicolato has two years left on her current lease – and “technically [isn’t] going anywhere,” she said.
In response to rumours about plans for the strip mall to be demolished to make room for more pool parking, Thompson responded that the Township intends to “respect leases that are currently in place.”
“We have no long-range plans that I can comment on at this time,” Thompson added.