Proposed parking restrictions on Middle Street in Northampton draws fire
NORTHAMPTON — A measure to restrict parking on a portion of Middle Street near downtown Florence is drawing criticism from staff at a nearby medical office who say instituting a time limit will be hard on their many elderly patients.
At its meeting tonight, the City Council will consider an ordinance change that would create a two-hour parking limit on a portion of Middle Street near its intersection with Chestnut Street. The parking restriction would be in place from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
The meeting begins with public comment at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers of the Puchalski Municipal Building.
The proposed regulations for Middle Street come on the heels of a three-month experiment the city conducted last spring and summer in an effort to alleviate parking conflicts between residents who live on the street and the employees and patients of nearby medical offices. That experiment included two-hour temporary regulations that ended last summer.
The proposal has received pushback from many doctors who work in the medical offices and other residents who are urging the council to maintain unrestricted access to the street. The group presented the city with a petition with 190 signatures, they said, and many of them have written letters to the council in recent weeks.
Medical office personnel often use Middle Street to park to ensure that elderly patients can use the office’s parking lot. Restricting parking may force these patients to walk several blocks for an appointment, they said.
Office staff encouraged councilors to move ahead with an experimental plan to paint parking spaces on the street to delineate safe parking so that cars are not blocking driveways and otherwise parking illegally. That plan, ironed out between residents and a parking liaison from the medical practices, was never carried out, they said.
Others argued that Main and Middle streets are major commerce sections of Florence and that instituting time limits on parking is not a good way to promote business.
“Without adequate parking, we would be forced to move our business,” wrote Dr. Jaya Agrawal, a gastroenterologist at Hampshire Gastroenterology Associates, 10 Main St. “Whether they realize it or not, all of the businesses in Florence depend on this medical building. Daily, my staff patronize the restaurants, stores and coffee shops during their lunch hour.”