Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

December 5, 2013

Rejected parking study seeks a second chance

By Dustin Luca
dluca@andovertownsman.com

---- — A parking management initiative rejected by Town Meeting this past spring has found its way back into the town’s capital improvement plan.

Buried in Town Manager Reginald “Buzz” Stapczynski’s $9 million list of projects is a pitch to use $18,000 in parking meter receipts in the next fiscal year for a parking management assessment and plan.

The request was submitted by the Economic Development Council and town Planning Director Paul Materazzo.

Materazzo said parking continues to be a concern of residents, who say they have trouble finding spaces downtown and are often being ticketed.

“We’re looking for somebody to help us make parking more accessible, inviting,” he said. “We see this as something necessary in order to be pro-business.”

Materazzo said the study would look at successful initiatives in other communities for ideas on improving the parking framework in Andover.

“There are best practices out there that may be a great fit for Andover. There may be other ideas that are just too radical,” he said.

But while town officials, including the Board of Selectmen, Planning Board and Finance Committee, as well as business leaders all see a need for a parking survey, residents denied a similar request by a 126-109 vote last May.

At the time, Robert Strecker of Railroad Street called a parking plan “a waste of money.”

“I think I would recommend having a citizens committee set out to do this, including the business community,” Strecker said. “Interested parties can discuss the issue and figure it out. We don’t need to do historical studies or traffic studies.”

Meanwhile, Mary Carbone of Cyr Circle suggested the cost of a parking survey should be the responsibility of business property owners who most stand to benefit from it.

But Steven Leeds, co-owner of Royal Jewelers on Main Street and a town resident, argued to Town Meeting that the downtown “is the lifeblood of any community” and the survey would create a “safe environment with “easy ... well-lit parking to enhance the consumer experience.”

Materazzo said that after talking to Stapczynski and selectmen Chairman Alex Vispoli, the request was reintroduced in the capital improvement plan.

“This is something that the Economic Development Council had felt strongly about,” Materazzo said. “They didn’t want this to just die at Town Meeting. They wanted to bring it back.”

Residents, however, will continue to have the final say when the capital plan goes before Town Meeting for approval next year.