WEST DUMMERSTON—The Selectboard got quite an earful at the Jan. 4 public hearing on the proposed parking ordinance, held at the Community Center.
About 30 people showed up to mostly express their alarm and opposition, and, after going back into session at the regular Selectboard meeting, the Board unanimously defeated the ordinance.
After receiving complaints from a few West Street residents last year about cars impeding the flow of traffic in West Dummerston village, the Selectboard discussed the matter in their meetings and held a few public forums.
According to Board Clerk Joe Cook, the Oct. 26, 2016, public forum showed “folks are quite evenly split” on whether a parking problem exists in the village.
The Selectboard responded, meeting with the Planning Commission and the Development Review Board “to decide how to proceed,” Cook said at the Jan. 4 meeting. At the Selectboard’s request, Cook wrote the parking ordinance, using language gathered from other municipalities’ parking ordinances, and in response to the expressed complaints.
But Cook stressed at the Jan. 4 meeting that he didn’t draw up the ordinance “because of concerns expressed by members of the highway department, the fire department, or the sheriff’s department."
Since October, though, response to the proposed parking ordinance “has been overwhelmingly negative,” Cook said.
The part of the ordinance many residents complained about was in section 4, subsection C, which states, “It shall be unlawful to park motor vehicles ... [on] any Town road in a manner that prevents the two-way flow of traffic."
During the public comment portion of the Jan. 4 forum, resident Ruth Barton spoke up first. “This is a classic example of a solution looking for a problem,” she said.
“If you want to kill all events at the Grange, most of the events that happen at the church, and even some events that happen at the Town Offices and the Historical Society, including the Apple Pie Festival, go ahead with this foolish thing,” Barton said.
Other residents expressed similar concerns — at the forum and in letters to the Board — about holding events at their homes that required guests to park along one side of the road. Some older homes do not have driveways large enough to accommodate guests, and most town highways couldn’t accommodate parking and also allow for the flow of two-way traffic, some said, suggesting that the ordinance could mean the end of summer barbecues and New Year’s Eve parties.
“The Selectboard never intended... that people couldn’t have events at their house,” said Board Vice-Chair Steve Glabach, adding that that concern is an “over-reaction,” and the Board is “trying to address safety issues."
Although the Board voted down the ordinance, members of the Selectboard and some residents noted the value in the process, saying the issue got people interested and talking with one another.
West Dummerston resident Sam Farwell said “the parking issues have been resolved” because people worked it out.
Board Chair Zeke Goodband thanked the residents who came out and wrote letters to the Selectboard about the issue, and specifically thanked “the people who are sending us telepathic messages."
“The Selectboard had to move forward and get people’s input. It’s part of the process,” Board member Hugh Worden said, adding the “settlement areas and rural districts have different issues” and needs.
“When you brought something to us, it was acted upon, and it really brought people out,” Worden said. He noted that the town roads crew said that with the new parking awareness, plowing the village has been easier this winter.
Resident Al Fantini said the experience reminded him how fortunate he is. “It made me think about and appreciate so much more my 48 years” living in Dummerston, with “so many events” happening in public spaces and in people’s homes, he said.
Fantini also pointed out that cars parked in the roads during events reduces speeding, which he said is Dummerston’s real traffic problem.