Thank you for your interest in and support of the Valley News. So far, we have raised 80% of the funds required to host journalists Claire Potter and Alex Driehaus for their one-year placements in the Upper Valley through Report for America, a national service program that boosts local news by harnessing community support.

Please consider donating to this effort.

Police to Enforce Parking Limits as Construction Squeezes White River Junction Parking

  • A pedestrian waits to catch a ride on Main Street in White River Junction, Vt., where Hartford Police are enforcing a two hour limit for on-street parking, Thursday, May 4, 2017. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — James M. Patterson

  • Traffic passes along South Main Street in White River Junction, Vt., Thursday, May 4, 2017. As parking becomes increasingly scarce downtown due to increased demand from downtown businesses and attractions, Hartford Police are enforcing a two hour limit for on-street parking, four hours for spaces facing the train tracks and allow all-day parking in municipal lots near the town hall and behind the former American Legion building. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • The availability of parking in White River Junction, Vt. is being impacted as construction workers have filled spaces in the South Main Street municipal lot while building an assisted living facility on Gates Street, Thursday, May 4, 2017. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/5/2017 12:28:23 AM
Modified: 5/5/2017 12:28:31 AM

White River Junction — A flurry of construction activity in the heart of the village has created a flashpoint for long-gestating parking problems, prompting town officials to increase police enforcement of time limits in short-term parking zones.

On Tuesday, the Hartford Police Department issued a statement asking drivers to be “respectful of the local business owners and avoid a parking violation.”

Lori Hirshfield, director of Hartford’s planning and development department, said the town has been busily troubleshooting parking conflicts that have arisen in the last week and a half, as teams of contractors begin work on The Village at White River Junction, a $27 million, five-story assisted living and memory care facility being built on Gates Street.

“I drive by every morning to see what’s going on,” Hirshfield said.

The town is trying to ease the pain by employing a variety of strategies.

“It’s just more rigorous management,” Hirshfield said. “We’re making sure contractors are parking in their spots, making sure we have good communication out to business owners on a daily basis as things are changing.”

She said the town has removed “dead cars” from the two municipal lots on South Main and Maple streets, and also directed contractors to shift their building materials to avoid gobbling up spaces in the South Main lot, which borders the construction site.

“Police are making rounds to make sure things are going the way we expect them to go,” Hirshfield said.

Some of the construction equipment is occupying portions of a parking lot used by the neighboring Northern Stage, which has displaced some of their staff, Hirshfield said.

Brooke Ciardelli and Byron Hathorn are partners in Gates and Dickson, managing member of the Village at White River Junction.

They said they’re working with town officials to minimize the parking impact, including by having workers meet outside of town so that they can carpool in and out.

Hathorn said that, in one case, 25 workers use three or four cars, which they park in the municipal lot.

Ciardelli said construction’s impact on parking is an integral component of the permitting process, and had been factored in throughout the planning stages.

“It’s not haphazard or casual,” she said.

The size of the workforce on the site is expected to ebb and flow over the next year, with a targeted completion date of April.

Construction of the 80-unit assisted living facility isn’t the only project that will put a crimp on parking during this construction season.

Hirshfield said developer Matt Bucy also is doing smaller-scale work on 129, his 22-unit apartment building formerly known as the American Legion building, and work will likely begin in a month or two on developer Bill Bittinger’s planned mixed-use project at Bridge and Main streets.

“There may be blips, and certainly we invite people to call us if something doesn’t work well or if they don’t understand why something is the way it is,” she said.

She also said people could report parking violations to the police.

Some residents said parking in White River Junction has become a headache, if only a slight one.

“I’ve not had a good experience parking here, that’s for sure,” said Catherine Garbarino, who’s been living in the Hotel Coolidge for the last two years while working on a master’s degree from the Center for Cartoon Studies.

Garbarino was walking past a string of parked cars along South Main Street on Wednesday afternoon, headed to her car in the town-owned lot behind Bucy’s building, the former American Legion.

It’s the only convenient overnight parking available, she said, and on Monday, she found herself in the rare position of not being able to find a spot there. But her main gripe is with the parking spaces in the lot design, which she said is neither efficient, nor accommodating of her Ford Taurus.

“The lots here are small, cramped, and not made for longer cars, that’s for sure,” Garbarino said.

Garbarino, a native of Kansas, said the New England terrain has given her new appreciation for the wide expanses back home. “Our lots are quite large,” she said. “I had no idea how fortunate I was.”

In recent years, White River Junction’s parking resources are also being taxed more by visitors like Alyson Short, an Ossipee, N.H., resident who was visiting downtown with a friend from Oregon on Wednesday afternoon, trying to track down a bar she had enjoyed during a previous visit.

Short and her guest said the village currently projects an appealing image, lively, but not too crowded. Parking was not an issue for her.

“A minivan happened to leave a spot just as I pulled up, so I would say it was quite hospitable,” she said.

Though the construction activity has contributed to the current parking woes, Hirshfield said the pressure has been building over the years, as shown in 13 years of parking data.

“Our predictions were pretty good,” she said. “We could see the increase coming, and the timing was just right.”

And tight parking might also be seen as a small dark spot in an otherwise bright trend for the town’s economy.

“Years ago, I would hear people say, ‘I want a parking problem, because it means that people are coming into the downtown,’ ” Hirshfield said.

Ciardelli said the community will ultimately benefit from the project.

“Businesses have struggled for years to have enough customers to hold on, and now it’s turned around,” she said. “This is an economic boom that’s happening to White River.”

The town’s monitoring and data collection were precursors to the application of a $20,000 state grant to fund a formal parking study, which has been conducted over the past 18 months, and will be the subject of a report issued by town planners later this month.

Last year, a survey of the town’s 332 municipal-owned parking spaces found street parking along North Main, South Main and Currier Streets had the heaviest usage, filled to between 85 and 100 percent occupancy both in the morning and midday.

The lots, which are located off Main Street and so are slightly less convenient, were used less frequently, with anywhere from 30 to 80 percent occupancy.

Hirshfield said the parking report will include an analysis of a series of possible long-term solutions. Ideas that have been floated include installing parking meters, increasing enforcement actions against parking scofflaws, reducing demand by stepping up public transportation options, redesigning existing parking lots and building additional parking capacity.

Mark Estes, owner of the Junction Frame Shop on South Main Street, has participated in one of the community meetings held as part of the parking study. After 32 years in the area, Estes has seen a tightening of available space over just the past two years.

“On certain days, it’s tougher to find a parking spot,” he said, though he did not find the recent construction activity to be a significant factor.

Estes said he himself parks in a nearby lot, or in a space provided by the Hotel Coolidge, which owns the storefront he rents.

He would like to see the town explore strategies that might include stricter enforcement of the two-hour time limit on certain spots, but says he wouldn’t favor parking meters.

“Enforcing what’s there in the law now might be ideal,” he said.

Hirshfield said that, two years ago, downtown White River’s parking hit a similar “pressure point,” when three construction projects were happening simultaneously in the area.

Street parking in the downtown area is generally limited to two hours during the day, and four hours for spots along the fence at the rear of a lot between South Main Street and the railroad tracks.

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




Valley News

24 Interchange Drive
West Lebanon, NH 03784
603-298-8711

 

© 2021 Valley News
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy