Parking limits sought on west edge of downtown Amherst

  • Amherst Town Hall GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 11/21/2019 11:15:32 AM

AMHERST — Changes in the works to parking on three streets at the edge of downtown Amherst may trigger a public hearing by the Town Council next month.

But some councilors at Monday’s council meeting expressed concern that they have not yet been apprised of what these changes might entail for two short and narrow roads, Gaylord Street and Kendrick Place, and for Lincoln Avenue, which extends from Northampton Road north to the University of Massachusetts campus. The council next meets Dec. 16, though no public hearing is scheduled.

At-Large Councilor Alisa Brewer said she was “freaking out” that the adjustments to parking are already being discussed by the Transportation Advisory Committee, which has no authority over parking matters, after the issue was brought to that panel by Town Manager Paul Bockelman.

“The town manager doesn’t drive the train on Lincoln and Gaylord and parking,” Brewer said. “It’s up to the council when they want to talk about it.”

Bockelman, though, said safety concerns are prompting a need to consider new parking restrictions. Parking is allowed on both sides of Kendrick, a dead-end street off Northampton Road, and Gaylord, which runs between Lincoln Avenue and South Prospect Street, despite their being much narrower than many town roads.

On Lincoln Avenue, District 3 Councilor Dorothy Pam said residents have been raising concerns to her for several months that the stretches of the street where parking is allowed pose a hazard for drivers and bicyclists.

David Sloviter, a spokesman for the Lincoln Avenue neighborhood, said Wednesday that petitions have circulated seeking to prohibit parking between McClellan and Amity streets from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays.

“The situation has become so difficult that at this point we’re asking for a parking ban,” Sloviter said.

The number of vehicles parking on the street, especially when the University of Massachusetts is in session, has increased over the past two years, he said — and often, a solid line of parked vehicles leaves little room for two cars to pass each other.

The former Select Board voted four years ago to establish new 24-hour tow zones on the east and west sides of Lincoln within 120 feet north of Northampton Road, within 30 feet north and south of Gaylord Street and within 120 feet north and south of Amity Street. Tow zones were also put in place on the west side of Lincoln Avenue within 30 feet south of Elm Street, and on the east side of Lincoln within 30 feet south of McClellan Street.

Bockelman told the council all changes being considered have been brought to Department of Public Works Superintendent Guilford Mooring, Police Chief Scott Livingstone and Fire Chief Walter “Tim” Nelson for review.

District 3 Councilor George Ryan shared Brewer’s concern about the Transportation Advisory Committee being brought into the process but suggested a public hearing by the council makes sense.

District 4 Councilor Steve Schreiber disagreed, saying he is nervous about the council having a public hearing and getting information before another group reviews it.

Brewer said it is frustrating that the matter has already been referred to police, fire, and the DPW, and that councilors have only gotten a hint about the parking changes through communication from residents, rather than town staff.

“We should be the ones determining the initial scope of the hearing,” Brewer said, “not the town manager, not the random letter we got in the mail.”

Council President Lynn Griesemer said the problem for the council is that no specific body is designated for reviewing parking matters, as even the just-disbanded Downtown Parking Working Group didn’t have the roads being discussed in its scope of work.

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