WINCHESTER - Does Winchester have a parking problem probably depends on who you ask.
If enough people complain (business owners, shoppers, residents, employees), then the town feels obligated to do something. In that vein, the town hired Toole Design Group to compile some short-, medium-, and long-term parking solutions.
Jeff Rosenblum, from Toole, went over some of these proposed changes, specifically highlighting the short-term fixes, in a meeting this week with the Select Board. He first noted some of the recent changes to the downtown area, such as outdoor dining which takes up several parking spaces per restaurant, and an increase in 2-hr parking spots.
He shared his concerns that include the ongoing work at the Winchester Center Commuter Rail Station, proposed new development (like the Waterfield lot), the battle between outdoor dining and other businesses over necessary parking spaces, issues with 1-hr spaces, how all-day parking competes with retail and customer needs, employees parking in customer spaces, and commuters parking in residential neighborhoods.
Rosenblum said the short-term solutions could be in place by the holidays, the medium-term solutions by next spring and the long-term solutions by 2024 (those include adding a pricing program, rethinking the zoning system, rethinking permit parking, and using an electronic enforcement system, among others).
In the short-term, he outlined several changes the board eventually approved to include:
• converting 12 spaces in the Jenks Center lot to 2-hr.
• converting 10 spaces in the Shore Road lot from 1-hr to 2-hr and 13 spaces from combo to permit/2-hr
• converting 32 spaces on Mystic Valley Parkway from unlimited to 2-hr
• converting 11 spaces on Outer Church Street from 1-hr to 2-hr
Rosenblum also suggested increasing the signage around town to alert drivers to available spaces, specifically placing signs on the street and not just in the parking lots.
The board appreciated the work and approved the short-term improvements. However, as they noted in previous meetings when the discussion comes up, the town has plenty of parking spaces. The main issue seems to involve how efficiently or inefficiently it uses them.
“We need to alert drivers to the number of spaces in the different lots,” Select Board member Mariano Goluboff suggested, noting not everyone can park on Main or Thompson Street.
Rosenblum believed most people already know these other lots exist, it’s whether they want to park a couple of blocks away.
Other members, like Rich Mucci and Michael Bettencourt, called the recommendations exactly what the board wanted for the short-term, with Bettencourt adding how “businesses will appreciate this.”
Chair Susan Verdicchio said these improvements would “simplify” things and added how increasing signage make sense.
Rosenblum added in the longer-term outlook, all-day parking should exist further from the town center. Mucci proposed getting more community feedback on those kinds of changes before the board proceeds.