Parking puzzle a perennial issue

If you work in a downtown in the Monadnock region, you’ve probably at some point run into a parking problem, a ticket or both.

Parking is a perennial issue that plagues small, rural towns that work to maintain historic features while also striving for economic growth and merchant viability. Downtowns and town centers are our hubs, where we come together to participate in municipal affairs, to celebrate the seasons, to work and to shop. With so many mixed endeavors going on in one central location, there are bound to be conflicting objectives from time to time when it comes to how to make the best use of available parking spaces. Thankfully, the democratic process is there to ensure the greater good wins out.

Tuesday night at the Peterborough Town House roughly 40 people turned out for a well-advertised public hearing about the fate of 48 municipal parking spaces off School Street, in the heart of the town. Town officials had proposed making those spaces four-hour parking spots in exchange for 12 all-day spaces behind the Peterboro Diner.

The loss of 36 all-day spaces would have been felt by people who work downtown, and that was the sentiment expressed by store owners at the meeting.

There is sometimes a notion of discord between shop owners — who are rightfully protective of spaces for their customers to park — and downtown employees, some of whom work from early in the morning to late at night. But that clash is not what came through Tuesday night. The concern expressed for workers was heartening, and the Select Board took note, voting not to make any changes to the time limit in the municipal lot tucked behind the buildings on Grove and Main streets.

At the meeting, talk of a parking garage arose once again but, as Department of Public Works Director Rodney Bartlett pointed out, sticker shock — $1 million was the number Bartlett quoted — is what’s kept that idea from going anywhere.

The town has opened up more municipal parking at the fire station on Summer Street to accommodate need, but most don’t seem to want to park there. And let’s face it, lugging groceries and other packages from shops, or briefcases and laptops to and from the office, could be cumbersome — not to mention the safety concerns raised about walking after dark.

So the parking puzzle persists. Perhaps it’s one of those things that’s never completely solved, as we work to grow and expand.

It’s nice to be reminded, though, that thinking of others is always an option.

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