WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Williams College and its contractor believe they have a solution to the problem of workers parking in a downtown parking lot during construction projects.
The practice frustrated downtown merchants during last summer's renovation of the college's Spring Street tavern. A looming five-year project to build a new science center near the village business district has raised serious concerns among business owners.
At last Thursday's meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals, the college's counsel outlined a plan to fine subcontractors whose employees park anywhere but areas the college has designated for construction parking.
"Consigli Construction, in its contracts with subs will require them to park in designated areas ... and there will be shuttles," Jamie Art told the ZBA.
Anyone working at the site near the corner of Stetson Road and Walden Street and Hoxsey Street will be issued a sticker to place on their car during the construction period. If a vehicle with such a sticker is seen in the public lot or on Spring Street itself, the employer of the worker will be fined up to $500, depending on the number of offenses, Art said
"This is a way the college can put some teeth in its program," Art said. "This will minimize contractors parking where town [business] employees and customers need to be parking."
Sean Ditto of Consigli told the board that the fines will be issued against companies rather than the workers themselves because the businesses are the ones who will have contracts with Consigli, the project's general contractor.
"Having worked on several college campuses, this is not the first time this has come up," Ditto said. "You start hitting people with fines, and the word spreads quickly."
Ditto said Consigli planned to donate money from the fines to a local charity.
Art explained that the college plans to run shuttles each day to and from sites that are not within a short walk. Ditto said the site will have boxes where workers can store their tools.
At the Board's Jan. 21 meeting, Art suggested part of the parking solution could include a change to how the town utilizes the public lot on Spring Street. Specifically, he said the Board of Selectmen could consider limiting hours in the lot.
That raised concerns from the owner of Tunnel City Coffee, who spoke from the floor at last Thursday's meeting.
"As an employer and restaurateur on Spring Street, that is not a solution to me," Paul Lovegreen said. "We need to explore areas for people to park all day. Our employees need a place to park. We don't want it to be any more difficult for people to park there."
On Monday, Lovegreen was back at Town Hall, this time to raise the same concern to the Board of Selectmen.
Town Manager Jason Hoch said Lovegreen's points "are well taken" and that the town was hoping a study currently being conducted by the college and Chamber of Commerce would provide some guidance about the parking needs downtown.
"My first reaction is I'd hate to post an ordinance until I knew there was data there," Hoch said.
Lovegreen, who expressed satisfaction with the plan outlined by the college on Feb. 4, said downtown parking needs a comprehensive solution. And the town ought to consider things like making better use of a de facto parking lot at the town-owned former Town Garage site at 59 Water St., he said.
Whatever path is chosen, Lovegreen was clear what he does not want to happen.
"I don't want to see $10, $11, $12 per hour employees ticketed," he said. "That's my goal."
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