Residents concerned about reducing parking on Main St and Common, near activity hub

by beth on December 18, 2015

This week, the Board of Selectmen voted to implement changes to the Main Street re-design. The decisions centered around safety for drivers and pedestrians. Meanwhile, residents worried about decreased parking in an area heavily used by the community.

The board ratified recommendations made by the Main Street Design Committee to:

  1. Insert additional sidewalks on Route 85
    1. South of Rte. 30, on the East side – running from the corner of the Community House to Woodward School.
    2. North of Rte. 30, on the West side – running from the corner of the Southborough Library down to the end of the library parking lot.
  2. Add parking along Main Street at Middle Road
    1. East of Middle Road – 3 unmarked spaces, painted “Funeral Only” (and not for use during wakes)
    2. West of Middle Road – 5 unmarked spaces

Although the parking is an addition to the previous approved plans, it is a reduction to what had previously been discussed with Morris Funeral Home owners. And even that was a reduction of the parking that currently occurs along Main Street. (The Main Stree redesign includes curbing to prevent parking on sidewalks.)

The Morrises’ attorney told the board that parking is essential to the 6th generation business. He asked for the board to incorporate a plan to address more parking.

The committee defended that the site lines at Middle Road force the parking limitations. Chair Martin Healey explained that the nature of their talks changed once they looked at state and federal guidelines. More parking would create a danger for drivers and liability for the Town.

But the committee acknowledged poor timing left the business owners feeling disenfranchised.

The Morris family participated in several meetings to work through parking options. Then the committee received and reviewed the guidelines while the Morrises were out of town. Member Steve Phillips explained,

While they were on vacation in August, they lost three parking spots.

What didn’t change last night, but added to the Morrises’ dismay, is the reduction in parking on Common Street. Reduced parking there was already incorporated in the 25% Plan design. Stephen Morris, former Selectman Bill Boland, and former opponent Desiree Aselbekian all objected to reduced parking in the busy vicinity. 

Morris and Boland focused on the use of Common Street by visitors to Pilgrim Church and the Southborough Library.

Morris claimed that his concerns had been shared by the church and library. He felt undermined by discussions that took place with the institution representatives without him. Puportedly, those conversations garnered support (or lack of opposition) from the institutions.

Boland was concerned about the need for parking for the church, wakes and for public events hosted by the library:

People aren’t really addressing that there’s a drastic reduction of parking on Common Street. . . which doesn’t come down to the safety factors at the end of Middle Road.

Boland said he counted 14 cars parked on Common Street last Sunday, in addition to cars parked both ways on St. Mark’s Street. Galligan confirmed Common Street will be limited to 9-11 spaces.

Aselbekian worried about shrinking parking in an area, including the Community House, heavily used by an elderly population and families with small children in a community that is growing. She pushed for the Town to come up with a plan to handle parking needs.

MSDC member John Wilson countered audience concerns:

If any of these people that park around here that go to events, if they were going to a Patriots game and could park this close to Gillette Stadium, they’d think that they were an important person.

Member Susan Baust reminded the public that when given a choice between parking and sidewalks, area residents chose sidewalks.

Brian Shea, member of both the board and committee, stressed that the committee had worked to include as much parking in the area as possible while ensuring the road was properly engineered.

Shea encouraged the Funeral Home Director to reach out when needing help

with temporary parking spaces on days of events or temporary traffic pattern adjustments to accomodate those, I will do anything I can to help them as long as I’m sitting in this seat here.

To protect his business, Morris has started taking steps towards building a lot on abutting property. He’s taken out an application for demolition of his pre-1900 house at 36 Main Street. (He anticipates potential opposition from the Historical Commission.)

Morris asked for help from the DPW to pursue financial assistance from the state. Rather than discussing that during the meeting, the board asked their engineering consultants to follow up.

BOS Chair John Rooney’s questioning the Town’s engineering consultant on adding more parking to Common Street. He said they would need to look into that. He did explain that parking was determined based on distance from intersections and crosswalks, and hydrants.

For the sidewalk by the Southborough Library parking lot, Rooney asked the committee to look into extending it to St. Mark’s School’s crosswalk. He asked engineers to take a quick look at estimated costs for surveying the land and a projection to share with St. Mark’s on what that construction would cost if they supported it..

The MSDC update also included aesthetic recommendations yet to be voted on.

Members recommend a 2:1 ratio for replanting trees. And they delineated the Route 30 sidewalks as asphalt from Sears Road up to Fay School’s formal entrance. From there sidewalks would be concrete to the project end at Park Street. (No specifics were given for Route 85 sidewalks.)

Click here for the update memo.

1 John Butler December 18, 2015 at 5:17 PM

All residents need to know that this project cannot go forward as planned without a 2/3 vote of Town Meeting to approve the land rights acquisition that will be needed. The State requires that the Town secure the rights and the Town must get 2/3 approval of the voters at Town Meeting for that to happen. This also means that Advisory Committee will need to make a recommendation, as this too is the law. Citizens can appear before Advisory when it considers its recommendation and also speak and vote at Town Meeting on the topic. Citizens, by their vote, will get a say.

From information I received this week from DPW, it appears that the vote on the land rights acquisition will not happen at the April 2016 Town Meeting because the Town will not be ready at that time.

2 southsider December 18, 2015 at 6:14 PM

A 6th generation business that spends time and effort trying to cooperate only to have meetings occur when they’re not present. These meetings lead to hardship for the business. Sad, if you ask me.

3 Downtown Resident December 23, 2015 at 11:16 AM

I’m wondering where the people who would be using the proposed sidewalks (1.a&b above) are coming from and going to? If someone was in the library parking lot and wished to access the sidewalk running parallel to the parking lot, he would have to walk to either end of the parking lot to do so. That seems silly. And then, for the sidewalk running parallel to the Community House lawn, again, where are the people using it coming from & going to?

4 beth December 23, 2015 at 12:59 PM

My personal take based on my own experience walking with kids in the area:
The sidewalks aren’t for people parking in the lot to then go to the library. They are for people walking to the library or for those who had to park elsewhere when their lot is full. (I suppose – possibly also when the Library is closed for parking there and walking elsewhere.)

I have experienced not being able to safely bring my kids to a library program in the winter due to parking and sidewalk situation.

In the winter, because of ice, the steps on Route 30 side where the sidewalk is are closed. (And someone pushing kids in stroller couldn’t use that entrance anyway. On the route 85 side, the only “sidewalk” is the path that cuts diagonally through the lawn from the corner. That is generally covered in snow. It’s especially an issue when they have kids programs over Christmas and February breaks.

Some years walking from downtown or parking on Common, I had to carry my kids across the snowed in path. Last year over February break, I didn’t even bother going when I knew it was too late to snag one of the spots in the lot. (Of course, if the new sidewalks are covered in snow, then they won’t make a difference in that scenario.)

But the Town is also looking into making it safe to walk from the St. Mark’s School crosswalk to the library.

I can’t make as strong a case for the one next to the Community House – I just know that I would have used it when my kids were younger. I used to take my kids to play at Woodward, then cross to the library. The current sidewalk has areas closed off or too narrow for a stroller I had to actually lift it in spots or cross on the lawn next to the Community House instead of the walk because of that. But, I assume that future sidewalks won’t have those issues.

But, while in theory the sidewalk across the street should be enough, the cars using the intersection and coming and going from Woodward make that area a bit treacherous to cross by crosswalk alone. If you need to cross the street, crossing where there is a walk light would be safer.

5 beth December 23, 2015 at 1:23 PM

I should clarify – I’m not advocating these sidewalks are necessary. (I don’t even know what it will cost the Town.)

I’m just explaining why I think they would be convenient to have. But there are a whole lot of sidewalks in Town that would be convenient to have (and possibly more necessary.)

6 n December 23, 2015 at 2:13 PM

Where will people park their cars if others are walking on the sidewalks?

I rarely see people walking on them and almost always see cars parked on them – especially on the S side of 30 east of 85 and more so on the S side between Fay and 85.

Are sidewalks really that necessary in this part of town?

7 M December 26, 2015 at 1:46 PM

I pass thru town at all hours of the day. This particular area has pedestrians all the time. Students and employees of Fay School use the section regularly. Residents walk from downtown to the library or Town Hall. Church goers of course walk from all areas here. Those attending wakes at Morris walk from whereever they can park, and there are so many nearby lots. Aside from Downtown itself, there may be no other area in town where sidewalks are utilized more. IF winter walking with strollers is a problem, for goodness sake, this is New England. That is an issue anywhere outside!
As for the walk on 85 near the Community House, except for special events, that seems only to be used by students heading to St. Mark’s golf and I bet they don’t care if they walk on grass on either side. (Cleats and all). Woodward events only infreguently use it.
Parking cars on Common Street is very useful and “Beautifying” the area does not seem to warrant taking these away. I most appreciate that when there is a funeral, the police can block the section of rte 30 and we can easily drive around two or 3 other streets to get to on the other side of 30.
Why are we changing what works? Why could the project not have beem simpler? Why do we want a fancy bricked (winter hazzard) center area? I believe it’s because a certain group of developers pushed it upon us in order to add vaule to their real estate investments. Paving the roads and improving the sidewalks is good, but the major project was never required. What a mess the whole thing is now, how many years??

8 n December 29, 2015 at 4:51 PM

I see that Ted’s of Fayville has moved from its Village location to rt 9. A huge THANK YOU to Ted’s for this! It’s great to see a local business moving to a location in town that works for it and not asking to community to bend over backwards to enable it to stay in a location that I can only guess no longer worked as well as it once did.

For what it’s worth, I have no understanding or awareness of the behind the scenes story here. I am just a village resident tremendously grateful to see this company step up and find a great location in town that also happens to relieve the village of some of the truck traffic that seems to increase each year.

THANK YOU!

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