Amherst Town Council rejects Lincoln Avenue parking ban

  • Amherst Town Hall GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/21/2021 7:44:26 PM

AMHERST — Free weekday parking will remain available on a section of Lincoln Avenue after a plan to prohibit parking on most of the road, criticized by one town councilor as elitist, was rejected by the full council.

Despite a subcommittee of the council recommending the parking restrictions be in place during the academic year, with the subcommittee calling parking “incompatible” with the two-way traffic on Lincoln, councilors deadlocked 6-6 on the recommendation.

“This is kowtowing to a very privileged group of people,” said District 2 Councilor Pat De Angelis, who joined District 4 Councilors Evan Ross and Steve Schreiber, District 5 Councilors Shalini Bahl-Milne and Darcy DuMont and At-Large Councilor Mandi Jo Hanneke in voting against the proposal.

DeAngelis said Lincoln Avenue is not an unsafe street and the parking prohibition demonstrates “elitism to the extreme.” “I find that we are making a private street for the residents of Lincoln Avenue,” DeAngelis said.

The Town Services and Outreach Committee recommended parking be prohibited from Sept. 1 to May 31 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the east side of Lincoln Avenue from 200 feet north of Amity Street to 60 feet south of McClellan Street, between 60 feet north of McClellan Street and 30 feet south of Fearing Street, and entirely from Fearing Street to North Hadley Road.

Many of the vehicles parked on the street are believed to be affiliated with University of Massachusetts students and employees.

District 3 Councilor Dorothy Pam, who represents the neighborhood, disputed that a class issue was triggering the concern.

“I don’t think that safety has a class,” Pam said. “There have been accidents, there have been near accidents, there have been cars taking off each others’ mirrors, there’s been people trying to exit their driveways. If that doesn’t matter to you, you can vote no.”

Pam was joined by fellow District 3 Councilor George Ryan, District 1 Councilor Cathy Schoen, Council President Lynn Griesemer and At Large Councilors Alisa Brewer and Andy Steinberg in supporting the measure. District 1 Councilor Sarah Swartz was absent.

Ryan said the parking ban would be a good first step to eliminate the wall-to-wall cars on the street during the school year. “It does create a serious problem for the people who live there in terms of trying to get out of their driveways and in,” Ryan said.

He added he was disappointed and offended by the charges of elitism and classism.

For Ross, the concern is that the reconstruction of Lincoln Apartments, a 200-bed graduate complex, and the university’s plan for a 623-bed undergraduate dormitory and other projects in the Massachusetts Avenue parking lot will force Lincoln Avenue to become a dead-end street north of North Hadley Road until 2023.

Ross said he was struggling to support the restrictions when traffic patterns may change significantly. “To me it almost feels premature to make this change now,” Ross said.

There could also be a social justice issue, as Ross said there are people who need to access campus but can’t afford parking permits.

But Pam said it is essential to implement the parking ban for two years and then revisit it when the UMass projects are complete. “I think to not do something now would be to make us look like a body that can’t do anything,” Pam said.

Brewer said she came around to support the measure because there will be an increasing pressure on parking due to the UMass construction, with some people who lose their parking spaces scrambling to find new spots. “We need to move forward with this at this time,” Brewer said.

Schreiber said the best way to reduce speed on the road, which already has speed humps, and make the road safer, is to have vehicles parked on at least one side. “Traffic can pass and does pass,” Schreiber said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

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