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Parking Projects Proposed in Hartford



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, June 07, 2018

White River Junction — With a public discussion about parking meters and a parking garage still on the horizon, a pair of parking lot projects could slightly ease the mounting pressure on the downtown area’s increasingly vibrant streets.

Developer Mike Davidson is seeking a permit to turn a strip of land that runs behind Vermont Salvage Exchange on Gates Street into a private lot to serve the company’s employees and customers.

Davidson uses the graveled area, which is about 300 feet long and 60 feet wide, with the permission of New England Central Railroad, which owns the land. The property traditionally has functioned as a de facto parking lot for salvage work vehicles, and Hartford Zoning Administrator Jo-Ann Ells said she is seeking clarity on how many parking spots might be created under Davidson’s plan.

The project will come before the Hartford Zoning Board on June 27; beginning last year, Davidson has worked to improve the drainage system beneath the lot in anticipation of the permit.

The Zoning Board also will hear a municipal plan to reconstruct the South Main Street Municipal Parking Lot, often referred to as the American Legion Lot.

Town Manager Leo Pullar said on Wednesday that he hoped to bring the plan, which would supplement the town’s 332 public spaces, to the Selectboard for approval later this summer.

“I think the criticality of getting the project in motion increases every day,” Pullar said. “Growth is a good problem to have, but if we don’t manage it right, folks will leave and we don’t want that to happen.”

The $560,000 project would create 42 additional parking spots by cutting into the adjacent hill to gain an extra 60 feet of space. Under the plan, which was submitted for review by the town’s Public Works Department, an 8-foot retaining wall would run along the southern edge of the lot.

The proposal would regrade and repave the lot, add lighting poles and upgrade the existing lighting poles, install a dumpster and recycle area, and provide for four electric vehicle parking spaces near South Main Street.

The location was identified last year by former Selectboard member Mike Morris, who said he was seeking an alternative to building a municipal parking garage, which likely would cost millions.

Town planners have long anticipated downtown White River Junction parking woes, but they manifested quickly this summer when construction crews descended on the downtown to work on Bridge and Main, a $4.4 million mixed-use building by developer Bill Bittinger, and The Village, a $27 million assisted living facility by developers Brooke Ciardelli and Byron Hathorn.

Though the construction now is winding down, the buildings are expected to bring more residents and workers into the area each day.

“The building at Bridge and Main just opened and is becoming occupied. That is putting additional stress on the parking,” Pullar noted. “The assisted living facility is opening soon, and that will have an increased demand on parking. ”

The town commissioned a $20,000 study of parking alternatives, and formal discussions about the study’s recommendations, which include parking meters and a parking garage, are expected later this year.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be reached at mhonghet@vnews.com or 603-727-3211.