More village parking? Town’s working on it

The selectmen have started working to create more parking in the village.

Their plan is to build another parking lot on town land east of Bailey Avenue — essentially enlarging the current Governor Street lot, between the RVNA and the Boys and Girls Club, by extending it north toward Prospect Street, behind the Casey Energy property.

The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to spend up to $5,000 on a concept plan, engineering and wetlands studies for the project, after First Selectman Rudy Marconi outlined his ideas for the lot at the board’s June 7 meeting.

“This isn’t pie in the sky — it could become reality,” Selectman Bob Hebert said.

Marconi told The Press his goal is move ahead quickly with the project.

“It would be done in the next 12 months,” he said.

Not a garage

Although the location was talked of as a site for a parking garage a couple of years ago, that idea was not popular when raised in a town survey, and a garage is not what the selectmen are discussing now.

The lot would be in what is a surprisingly wild, wooded area behind the Governor Street lot and the Boys and Girls Club, and behind commercial properties on Prospect Street.

The town owns about two acres in the area, Marconi told The Press.

“But we have a brook that runs down through there, so it’s not all usable,” he said.

How many spots?

Marconi told the selectmen he’d been discussing with Town Engineer Charles Fisher how many parking spaces could fit on the site.

“Charlie’s thought was 34, 35 spots,” Marconi said. “I said if we’re going to that, we’re not going to do it. We’ve got to get 70 or 80 spots.”

But Marconi also spoke about saving some trees to maintain the aesthetics of an area on the edge of the central business district.

“What I don’t want to do is clear-cut this, and have a patch of asphalt,” he told the selectmen.

He was asked who the parking would be for.

“Employees,” Marconi responded.

Don’t forget the stream

The town’s lot off Governor Street, where there’s all-day parking, is often full these days, Marconi said.

Part of the planning work to be done is a wetland delineation study, needed because of the stream that runs through the site. Marconi said it flows from Rowland Lane, under the Veterans Park field, through the area where a parking lot would be built, and then under Prospect Street.

“It’s all underground, it’s surface through here, goes underground again,” Marconi said.

The board didn’t seem worried about putting more of the stream underground.

“There could be a culvert here,” said Selectman Steve Zemo.

“It might even be healthier if it’s piped,” said Selectwoman Maureen Kozlark.

Another aspect of the plan that concerns Marconi is assuring that there’s reasonable pedestrian access to it from lower Bailey Avenue.

“We’ll have to look at that, at putting in a walkway connection,” he said. “But that’s the purpose of doing conceptuals.”

Other ideas

The village commercial area has 1,100 to 1,200 parking spaces, Marconi said, and he has some other places he hopes to see more parking put in, including the former Cumming property on Catoonah Street — where the derelict house next to the post office was torn down during the winter. The site is owned by shopping center but under control of the U.S. Postal Service under a long-term lease so any plans will have go through the federal bureaucracy.

“We’re still going to look at that, with the USPS,” Marconi told The Press. “It’s still very much something that we want to do, which would be to put a little pocket park in the front that would protect the streetscape, and then behind that we would build an approximately 16-to-18-car parking lot, that would not only help during the winter holiday season when you have the mad rush and road rage at the post office, but it’ll help throughout the year, as well.”

Marconi said he’s also been talking to the owners of the shopping center there about putting some parking behind the large commercial building that houses CVS on one end and the Ancient Mariner on the other. The plan would likely involve some encroachment onto the property behind the shopping center, an area that’s part of Ballard Green housing for the elderly, controlled by the Housing Authority, Marconi said.

Here and there

The overall strategy as Marconi outlined it to The Press is to add a few more parking spaces here and there — wherever they’ll fit — with the goal a cumulative effect of significantly increasing available parking.

“You do 50 on Bailey Avenue, and 10 to 15 behind CVS where there’s an alley. Do another 15 or 18 next to the post office,” he said. “When you start looking at those numbers, now you’re increasing another 80 to 100 spots in the downtown.

He’s also hopeful that by piping of the brook, the area east of Bailey Avenue, could accommodate a larger number of cars.

“I would love to be able to pipe the brook that comes out from under ground by the Boys and Girls Club, is surface from that point to Prospect Street and then goes underground again,” he said.

“If we could pipe that whole area the possibilities are much greater for parking — but if we do that, there are going to be a lot of people that feel some of the character of our town may changed: ‘Too much asphalt!’ ‘Why get rid of trees?’” he said.

Marconi added that he appreciates the value in striking a balance between more parking area, and maintaining green space with trees and plantings.

“Parking lots are patches of asphalt: the bigger the patch, the more people can park,” he said.

“If we’re going to consider additional parking lots, then we also need to look at preserving some of the surrounding area to be impacted by preserving what is already there,” he said.

“We may not be able to get the largest parking lot you could build there, removing every single tree. But we’ll preserve some of those trees and we’ll have to compromise — preserve some of the perimeter trees to protect the green, and at the same time, make some room for parking.”