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Proposed parking restrictions on Middle Street in Northampton draws fire

— 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.”

umm....even if the parking is restricted to 2hr parking only from 8am-6pm, patients will be forced to park there as there will not be room in the lots. This would mean constant traffic and constant coming and going. If I lived on Middle Street, i would much prefer the employees parking there and remaining there all day to constant coming and goings of all sorts of people. The fact is that Florence has become a very busy life filled little town and there is no parking. People will need to park somewhere, be it employees or patients/customers.

Middle Street is a residential street. I can imagine how frustrating the parking situation must be for residents. Perhaps more thought should have gone into where patients and employees would park before the offices were built. This was poor planning. I support the residents. Imagine not being able to have guests to your house because employees were parked there all day.

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