Amherst hearing set on Lincoln Avenue parking ban

Staff Writer
Published: 2/13/2020 10:28:34 PM
Modified: 2/13/2020 10:28:23 PM

AMHERST — Nearly 200 informal parking spots along Lincoln Avenue, which are believed to be used on weekdays by a number of commuters to the University of Massachusetts, could be eliminated if the Town Council approves a series of restrictions at a March 9 public hearing.

With detailed plans for parking changes submitted in a Feb. 5 memo to the Town Council by Town Manager Paul Bockelman, the council Monday agreed, by a vote of 9-3, with District 4 Councilor Stephen Schreiber and District 5 Councilors Shalini Bahl-Milne and Darcy DuMont opposing, to schedule a public hearing to get feedback and possibly decide on implementation.

The plans, developed by Town Engineer Jason Skeels in consultation with Department of Public Works Superintendent Guilford Mooring, Police Chief Scott Livingstone and Fire Chief Walter “Tim” Nelson,  include prohibiting parking at all times on the west side of Lincoln Avenue between North Hadley Road and Amity Street, and prohibiting parking on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on much of the east side of Lincoln from Fearing Street to Amity Street.

In addition, parking would be prohibited on much of the east and west side of Lincoln Avenue from Amity Street to Northampton Road from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays.

The memo from Bockelman explains the rationale. “Parking on both sides of Lincoln Avenue has created a potentially hazardous situation when the parking inhibits the travel of cars going north and south simultaneously,” Bockelman writes. “It has also created challenges to residents exiting their driveways and has made safe biking a concern.”

Residents on Lincoln Avenue have made written and oral appeals to the full Town Council.  They have also broached the topic with both District 3 Councilors, George Ryan and Dorothy Pam.

“It is speculated that increased fees for parking and greater enforcement by the university has driven university employees and students to park on residential streets,” Bockelman writes. “In addition, Lincoln Avenue is outside the boundaries of the Town Center Permit Parking and those without permits utilize the street for parking.”

In 2015, the then Select Board agreed to modest changes on the street that restricted parking near intersections, but did not address all the issues with parking after objections were raised by some residents.

Before the hearing, councilors asked that Bockelman provided a tally of how many spaces are affected. At Large Councilor Mandi Jo Hanneke said a recent parking study showed that there are 189 spaces on the street.

Though the discussion Monday was limited to whether to set a hearing, Schreiber said he is worried about what will happen to the “motivated parkers” who have used the street. and why a complete ban is being proposed, rather than exploring alternatives, such as extending permit parking or installing meters.

For DuMont, her concern is that the proposal didn’t go through a petition process. DuMont said she would like to have the council establish a policy for when to call a hearing on parking and road matters.

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