By Dustin Luca
---- — Town officials and business leaders alike are pulling for residents to spend $18,000 on a parking study for downtown Andover.
The article is requested by the Economic Development Council and supported by the Andover Business Community Association and has been endorsed by the Board of Selectmen, Finance Committee and Planning Board.
If approved, the town would use the money to hire an outside consultant to review the town’s policies, parking availability, bottlenecks and more. That data would be compared to other communities as well, to see if there are common solutions to local problems, according to Town Planner Lisa Schwarz.
Tim Vaill, chairman of the Economic Development Council, said nobody in the town “is contesting whether we have enough parking or not. It’s if it’s manageable. If you assess the demographics and the downtown parking, is it being used in the best ways?”
Community feedback would suggest there is room for improvement. In the town’s most recent resident survey, completed last year, parking in town was a frequent complaint.
In the survey, 77 percent of responses said that traffic and parking enforcement was either good or excellent, but only 57 percent of responders offered similar high marks for parking availability.
In the survey’s open-ended sections, one responder wrote that he or she doesn’t “shop downtown often because parking is difficult and it seems like the (parking enforcement police) officer sits and waits for meters to expire. Not a pleasant shopping experience at all.”
While there has been some criticism surrounding the proposal to use taxpayer dollars to benefit businesses, Vaill said the survey would help residents as much as businesses due to increased revenue if the town’s parking situation is improved.
Beyond that, the need to study downtown parking is an aged one, officials said. The last study done by the town dates far beyond last decade’s Main Street project, which only studied traffic and intersection patterns, according to Schwarz.
“We haven’t done an official parking study in over 20 years, since 1991 I believe,” she said.