An American woman’s pandemic parking bill in Toronto: almost $3K

For one Detroit woman, the COVID-19 pandemic has become a year-long parking nightmare that may cost her thousands of dollars to end.

Kim Richardson’s vehicle, a 2004 Honda Element, has been sitting in the sprawling Park2Sky lot on Dixon Road in Toronto since March 11, 2020.

Using the parking lot popular with travellers departing from nearby Pearson airport, Richardson and her partner dropped off the vehicle en route to Europe, where she underwent a medical procedure. Just 10 days after they left, as the dangers of the COVID-19 pandemic became clearer, the Canada-U.S. border was closed to non-essential travellers. 

Richardson originally paid $100 to park for two weeks. Now the lot’s owner wants $2,800 to cover 11 months worth of storage before he releases the vehicle.

“I feel like I’m being extorted and I pretty much told the owner that. I told him this is beyond my control and they weren’t willing to work with me at all,” Richardson told CBC Toronto.

But the Etobicoke company isn’t budging.

“I feel for her but I don’t operate for free,” said a man who answered the company’s phone line and identified himself as the owner but declined to provide his name.

“I’m a reasonable guy and the price I’m offering is cheaper than what others are charging. I have expenses, too.” 

At this point, it’s unclear how the cross-border parking dispute will end. The border closure has been extended to at least Feb. 21, and the federal government is implementing stricter quarantine protocols for anyone entering Canada through an airport.

Meanwhile, Ontario Provincial Police have said they won’t get involved in a civil matter.

Now Richardson is staring at a bill that is more than the value of her vehicle. 

The company owner said that some U.S. residents who found themselves in a similar situation have had their vehicles shipped back, while others have opted to pay the parking fee and have their vehicles towed to the border.

He also said that Richardson did not contact Park2Sky until this year, a claim that she disputes. Richardson said she has called the phone number on the company’s businesse card multiple times since April 2020, and she provided CBC Toronto with emails she sent the company last spring.

Kim Richardson said she didn’t leave her car at the lot on purpose and isn’t trying to take advantage of the company. (CBC News)

“I called the lot multiple times. I didn’t get an answer. After trying a couple more times I wound up emailing them and I still didn’t get any response. My mother-in-law even tried to call and left a couple of messages,” she said.

The man who identified himself as the owner said he is in a tough spot himself. He is demanding Richardson pay full price, he said, because the pandemic has dramatically reduced his business.

“She should pay to get her car like everyone else has. I’ve got employees, insurance and security cameras to pay for. I’ve lost thousands of dollars as well. Business is down for everyone. If she wanted, she should’ve gotten the car right away,” he said.

But Richardson said the process isn’t so simple.

Border closures impact pickup

“I didn’t leave my car there on purpose. I’m not trying to take advantage of them. It was just circumstances and it happened to a lot of people,” she added

The Canada Border Services Agency informed Richardson that she is not be able to drive to Canada to pick up her vehicle because it doesn’t qualify as an essential trip.

Richardson also has a newborn baby at home and said she didn’t want to take the risk of flying amid the pandemic.

After the Detroit-based Local 4 News published a story on Richardson’s situation earlier this week, the company owner said, people have been calling to “harass” him.

“This isn’t right and I’m starting to get really mad because I’m being reasonable. If I don’t pay a bill for Rogers, hydro or a service I used, no one is going to feel bad for me. The government is not going to pay my bills. We all need to find a way,” he told CBC Toronto.

An image taken from Google Maps street view shows the relatively empty parking lot on Dixon Road, with Richardson’s 2004 Honda Element parked behind the fence. (Google Maps)

In the meantime, Richardson said she has been fortunate enough to purchase another used vehicle to help her family get to doctor appointments and buy groceries.

She is still hopeful she can resolve the ongoing dispute.

“I think my car is cursed, but my hope is to get it to this side and then maybe find it a new owner. I’m hoping that they’ll be empathetic to my situation.”

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