We all know that parking along Main Street can be a problem. Cars are parked on the sidewalk forcing pedestrians into the street. Existing business like the Morris Funeral Home have precious little space to accommodate their needs. Selectmen said it’s a problem they agree needs to be solved, but not at the expense of the town’s character.
At a public hearing last night, selectmen heard from residents and reviewed a number of design alternatives for an upgraded Main Street. While the redesign project stretches from Sears Road to Park Street, the discussion primarily focused on the section flanking the town common and the block east of Route 85.
One option presented for both stretches of roadway called for a nine-foot parking lane to be added on the south side of the street. Doing so would require the historic stone wall lining the south edge of the common to be shifted by as much as four feet in some locations. It would also do away with the grass strip and trees along Main Street east of Route 85.
It was an option most residents at the public hearing opposed.
Ray Hokinson, who lives along the stretch of Main Street east of 85, told selectmen a nine-foot parking lane would change the residential character of the block. “It would be stone wall to stone wall of asphalt,” he said.
But Stephen Morris, owner of Morris Funeral Home, said parking along Main Street is a necessity, saying, “It’s up to the board to plan for the future.”
The other main option on the table called for four-foot shoulders. A four-foot lane wouldn’t allow for dedicated parking spots, but could accommodate temporary parking on one side of the street. Basically it would be similar to what we have now, except with a couple more feet of space.
Fire Chief John Mauro Jr. said it’s difficult for fire trucks to make a left turn out of the fire station when cars are parked along Main Street. He told selectmen a four-foot shoulder with temporary parking allowed would impede emergency response.
But in the end, it was the option selectmen unanimously decided to back.
Presidential Drive resident Dennis Flynn remarked that the difference between the two plans came down to just five feet. “That five feet could have lawn or trees, or it could have vehicles,” he said. “Do we want cars or do we want character? It’s a five-foot decision. That five feet will make all the difference in this town.”
I’ll share some more detail about the proposed design and the timeline in an upcoming post.
(For more information on the Main Street redesign project, click here.)