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Plan to cut day parking nixed

  • Downtown office workers and businesspeople pack a Select Board hearing about parking in Peterborough on Tuesday.
  • Bruce Hunter points to the location of parking spaces near the municipal lot on Depot Street that are actually owned by Hunter, who has an agreement allowing the town to use them as two-hour parking spaces.
  • A few cars are parked in the public parking section of the repaved Summer Street parking lot next to the fire station in October 2013.

PETERBOROUGH — The Select Board has decided not to eliminate all-day parking in the municipal lot on School Street after hearing from a packed house of people who were overwhelmingly opposed to the proposed change.

At a public hearing Tuesday, the board floated the idea of changing the time limit in the municipal lot, which sits adjacent to the Peterborough Community Theater, to four hours . In exchange for the loss of all-day spaces, the board suggested making 12 spaces near the Peterborough Diner, which are currently designated as two-hour parking, into all day spaces. Department of Public Works Director Rodney Bartlett said the proposal was in response to a request from a downtown merchant for some three- or four-hour parking that would give customers a longer window for shopping.

The plan drew immediate criticism when Select Board Chair Joe Byk asked for feedback.

“Where would the people working here park?” asked Peter Robinson, owner of Roy’s Market. “We’d be trading 48 spaces for 12. I don’t really think this is really going to succeed. We don’t want to alienate people in all these offices.”

“It’s not really an equitable exchange,” said Leslie Lewis, who works in a downtown office.

Bill Littles, owner of Steele’s Stationers on Main Street, said a lot more people work downtown than in the past. “We can’t be unwelcoming to people,” he said.

Betsyan Gilcreast, owner of Paper and Roses in Depot Square, and Mose Olenik of the Mariposa Museum both said some parking of more than two hours would be beneficial to downtown merchants and their customers. Gilcreast said she had reimbursed three customers who had received tickets in the past year.

Olenik suggested changing some of the current two-hour spots along Main Street or Grove Street to three hours.

The town is opening up the repaved parking lot at the fire station on Summer Street for public parking. Bartlett said there will be 16 all-day spots, two of them handicap accessible, in the Summer Street lot.

“The thing to do is to encourage all-day employees who can’t get into the municipal lot to move to the fire station,” said Willard Williams, who owns the Toadstool Bookshop.

Clare McCarthy, who works at the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript, said many women and elderly people may not be comfortable walking to the fire station lot, especially at night.

“This isn’t going to solve anyone’s problem,” McCarthy said of the suggestion to put a four-hour limit on the municipal lot.

Bruce Hunter, who owns the building that houses Marzano’s Trattoria restaurant and the Peterborough Community Theatre, said part of the problem with the municipal lot is that some of the spaces are used throughout the day by the Need for Speed garage.

“It’s not fair to the people who need these spaces,” he said.

Steve Mahoney of Need for Speed said he does use some of the municipal spaces.

“I move cars all day,” Mahoney said. “I don’t sell clothes. I don’t sell meat. I don’t sell books. I work on vehicles. I have a right to make a living. I try to abide by all the rules.”

Williams, whose bookshop is across Depot Street from Need for Speed, said having the garage in town is a real benefit.

“He is careful about moving the cars,” Williams said. “We need to protect the businesses downtown.”

Some residents asked about the possibility of building a parking garage somewhere in town. Bartlett said garage options have been discussed in the past but a garage would be expensive.

“When I get to the $1 million price tag, every gets real quiet,” he said.

When Byk called for a show of hands, nearly everyone indicated the hours should not change. The Select Board decided to make no changes, but Byk asked Bartlett to review previous proposals to address the need for more parking and come up with a proposal for the board to study.

After the meeting, Bartlett said the striping of the lot at the fire station had just been completed. On Wednesday, he said barriers will be going up to mark the area intended for public parking and separate it from Fire Department parking.

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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