Main Street: Continued disagreements over parking issues at Town Common

by beth on April 9, 2016

Post image for Main Street: Continued disagreements over parking issues at Town Common

Above: property owners on Main Street across from the Town Common still object to Main Street reconstruction plans. (image from Google maps)

The Main St. Design Group Chair told the public “A No vote [on Article 20] could mean a 3 or 5 year wait – or never. Or, it could mean the Town paying $6 or $7 million.” Martin Healey addressed an audience of residents who came to learn about easements for the Main Street project.

The discussion was part of a (civil) debate at a March 31st forum to inform residents before Monday night’s Town Meeting vote.

Healey’s comment was in rebuttal to fellow Main St. Design Group member Steve Phillip’s assertion that a No vote wouldn’t kill the project. He suggested that concerned residents vote No to force the Town to revisit parking on Main Street.

Phillips stated that if the article is approved, it gives the Town authority to pursue easements against the property owners’ will. He said selectmen hope the process is friendly, but if it isn’t friendly, they can revert to eminent domain.

The Working Group member and project abutter was responding to parking issues for three properties across from the Town Common: Morris Funeral Home, the Morris’ rental property, and Dr. Stone’s.

Phillips said that a lot of people have been working on the problem but haven’t come up with a solution. he believes the impact on property owners is dwarfed by what easement negotiations could offer.

Donald Morris has spoken in public extensively about parking issues for his funeral home and neighbors. That night, Susan Stone (Dr. Stone’s daughter) addressed the Working Group about her concerns.

Stone said there wasn’t enough parking close enough for her father to access by wheel chair or for his business. And the required intrusion on the property would squeeze in a sidewalk 9 feet from the living room window. She was argued that would destroy the property value of the 1750 home.

From "Main Street 75% Right-of-Way Plans Jan-2016 REV Feb 2016"

(click to enlarge)

Healey argued that there were four spaces adjacent to the the property.

Member Claire Reynolds pointed out that the current parking on uncurbed sidewalks is illegal and unsafe. She spoke about her own experience, inching off of Middle Road with illegally parked cars blocking the site line. And she personally witnessed a careful driver seriously injur a bicyclist because parked cars impeded his view.

Healey reiterated that the site line issue isn’t just about residents’ impressions of safety issues. The intersection is unsafe by state and federal guidelines. Healey said that for the Working Group, prioritizing safety over convenience was an absolute.

Stone argued that the Town was prioritizing the Town Common over historic homes. She said that more land should be taken from the Common, since the stone wall has to be moved already. Galligan argued that the battle on that was lost to the Historic Commission years ago. And Healey said that changes to the historic Common are too difficult, requiring sign off at state and federal level.

Healey told the public that the group originally sought a Special Town Meeting for next October to give more time for working things out. But he learned from state officials, that they needed easements sooner in order to keep their spot in the project queue.

He explained that he didn’t think the state would kick them off the project list, if they don’t get the easements this year. But they would drop down, potentially to the bottom of the list. And there are many other projects in queue behind them.

Article 20 authorizes the Town to negotiate or take easements. Galligan said that once voters give the Town authority, they can negotiate with the property owners these issues. She said selectmen have indicated they may be willing to use Town funds to compensate the businesses for the impact of the project.

Galligan also pointed out that there should be working sidewalks. “This is our downtown. It should be walkable”.

She said that yes, sidewalks are “at expense of these pristine [parking] spaces that aren’t really spaces.” She followed, “They say the best compromise is where everyone is a little unhappy. . . everybody’s done the best they can.”

You can see the discussion here. For a look at the most up to date posted plans, click here.

Updated (4/9/16 5:13 pm) Inserted missing link and made minor text edits.

1 raoul duke April 9, 2016 at 7:37 PM

MARTY is always right! Just ask him

2 M April 10, 2016 at 10:36 AM

I am repeating a question that I posed in a previous arcticle on Town Meeting issues:

I wonder if the planners ever considered an option to make this section of Main St surrounding the Common, into two one-way streets? Go east in front of the funeral home and west up the road closest to the library? It would provide a little inconvenience to drivers but allow street-side parking without widening the road.

This is not an outrageous idea. There are other local New England towns with Common areas of various sizes that have done this successfully. Was it ever considered here?

3 Elaine Carr April 10, 2016 at 3:29 PM

Changing Main St Design at Town Meeting

I have watched the Design Committee overseeing this project, and all is not well. This project reduces parking for the Morris Funeral Home, and the owners have asked for changes.

The new street design will reduce on-street parking near the Funeral Home. One problem is that the existing parking in front of the Home is not strictly “on-street”. This is because there is no existing curb in that area, so the road is now level with the existing sidewalk, allowing cars to park over the sidewalk. But the proposed road will have a new, raised curb, so that cars will not be able to drive or park on the sidewalk. So there will be a few less parking spaces.

Other businesses, further down Main St, provide their own private parking, on their own land, beside or behind their buildings. But the Funeral Home, for some reason, has always relied on public parking. This public parking is located over the sidewalk, as well as on several public parking lots nearby, serving the Library, Townhouse, Pilgrim Church, and even Woodward School. All are within easy walking distance.

What can be done to provide more parking for the Funeral Home? I don’t understand why the Home does not provide its own parking on its own lot, just like other businesses. Instead, there have been calls for widening the new street directly in front of the Home. This would mean moving the old stone wall along the Common even further back, reducing the size of the Common still more, enough to provide a new parking lane to serve the Funeral Home.

What is most important? Any widening of the new street must maintain our historic, small-town, character. This central area defines our town.

4 Mike April 12, 2016 at 11:38 AM

Wasn’t this originally proposed as free or almost free? And if it’s not why bother re designing it leave it the way it is I think what will happen is the speed will pick up in the area. If we are going to do it then one of the recommendations I would make to the selectmen hse funds from excise tax and going forward all excise tax should not go into the general budget but go into a fund For the roads only . I made a proposal at the state level to make this happen – excise Tax should never ever go into a general fund , it’s for the roads , if we don’t need the funds from excise tax we can decrease excise tax. I noticed at the meeting last night town manager or moderator was all happy because Madison Avenue brought in more excise tax tax money to the general fund.

Previous post:

Next post: