NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council wants more information before it even considers putting seven metered parking spots to the east side of Ashland Street.
The request had been made to the Traffic Commission more than a year ago by Glenn Maloney on behalf of Very Good Property Development, which owns one of the buildings on that side of the street. Maloney said allowing parking in what is now a no-parking zone would allow more convenience for not only his building but other commercial businesses on the street.
The commission had recommended the parking spots May 20 with the conditions that there be no parking 100 feet from the Summer Street intersection so as not to disrupt the right turning lane, and 20 feet from Quincy Street for sight lines and turning.
Daniel Connerton, who owns a home on Quincy Street, objected to the plan during hearing of visitors at the beginning of the meeting.
The area is highly congested with traffic coming down Quincy from Church Street and then turning north or south on Ashland, cars and trucks turning into Cumberland Farms, and traffic exiting from the former Kmart parking lot. He said he drives to go to the cinema even though its barely 50 feet from his house because of the traffic speed and congestion.
"So it's hard to see. It's hard to see for everybody and for pedestrians," Connerton said. "So when you're considering that business of parking spaces, I'd thank you to also consider that."
Councilor Eric Buddington said the Traffic Commission had discussed parking spaces encroaching on the turning lane.
"These parking spaces will not change that length itself. That would be a separate process that requires an engineering study," he said. "I can't say that it won't affect visibility at all, because there would be cars parked there. But the turn lane itself, turning from Ashland Street onto Summer Street, will remain as it is."
The commission had tried to get a firmer position from the state Department of Transportation on clearances for right-turning lanes but was told an engineering study would be preferred. Instead, commissioners proposed a 100-foot setback from Summer that would avoid the turning lane altogether. The roadway section is about 300 feet long.
Councilor Marie T. Harpin said her concerns were the amount of vehicle and pedestrian traffic in that area -- from Cumberland Farms, the two plazas, the post office and the church in particular.
"There's a lot of people that live on the street, there's a lot of people that walk on Ashland Street, and the visibility, putting in seven spots in that area, is going to be very low," she said. "And personally, I think it's a safety issue."
Harpin said she could not support the proposal, adding, "It doesn't appear to me, according to these minutes that the state recommended it. The state actually recommended an engineering study."
Buddington said the study referred to the turn lane and also that Maloney had pressed for a definitive answer on the number of spaced based on measurements. "The state basically could not give us a formula for it," he said. "They said if you want that kind of specific answer, you have to hire a traffic engineer."
But Harpin responded that reading the minutes, the reference to the study appeared to be for metered parking as well.
Traffic Commissioner MaryAnn King had also objected to recommending the plan without a traffic study and was the lone vote against it.
Councilor Jason LaForest questioned if more spaces were necessary since there were always empty parking spots along Ashland, Summer and Monument Square. Plus, he said, there was a large parking lot across the street in the plaza.
Describing it as "more of a psychological challenge," Councilor Benjamin Lamb said there is an issue with people avoiding retailers and restaurants if they can't immediately park in front.
"Not to say that it should drive adding additional spots there, but I think that that's just the reality that we need to kind of somehow push back on," he said, but added that the council shouldn't be considering the "free parking" in its discussions because that was private property.
"I think sometimes it's helpful for us to realize that the Traffic Commission is operating on specific traffic questions, and we as a council have the ability to say that doesn't fit into what we believe is the master plan," Councilor Joshua Moran. "So I think we can very easily take the recommendation, read them, digest them, but then disagree with them."
Councilor Wayne Wilkinson noted that no order had accompanied the recommendation and the council should wait until an ordinance was before it.
"Would this discussion be more appropriate if there was an actual order that was presented to the council rather than this long discussion of an order may never come?" he asked. "When it comes we can have that this conversation."
Buddington said he would take back the council's requests for a map of the spaces, a traffic study, how bikes lanes would fit in and whether the spaces would interfere with the right-lane turn. And come back with an ordinance.
The council voted to file the communication for the moment.
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