Brattleboro sets new space for disabled drivers

First accessible parking spot planned for Main Street as two amendments to parking ordinance are approved

BRATTLEBORO — The first parking spot on Main Street reserved for drivers with disabilities will be available to drivers with state disabled plates or placards later this summer.

The Selectboard approved the creation of the space at a public hearing on May 21, held during the board's regular meeting.

The new parking space will be on the east side of Main Street, north of the clock, Town Manager Peter Elwell explained.

While the spot will not be van accessible, Elwell said the New England ADA Center in Boston has approved the town's use of the international symbol of accessibility (blue sign and white wheelchair outline)

The ADA Center is one of 10 such organizations comprising the ADA National Network, which promotes the implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The landmark federal law took effect in 1990.

The town will also add signage stating the space can't accommodate vans.

Vice Chair Tim Wessel thanked town staff and members of the town's ADA Advisory Committee for their work and for recommending the parking space.

“The east side needs help with this kind of accessibility,” he said.

Those who hold valid plates or placards can park in any legal parking space for free, Wessel later noted in a post on the Brattleboro, Vermont Facebook group. The new space will not have a parking meter, he said.

Board Clerk Elizabeth McLoughlin reminded the audience that members of the public had raised concerns around the lack of accessibility in the downtown during the Selectboard campaign earlier this year.

Board member David Schoales asked if the ADA Committee or town staff had identified additional parking spots on Main Street.

Nina Wilson, committee secretary, explained that the committee had conducted a survey of people with mobility issues.

“There's a great need, but you've got to start somewhere,” she said.

Wilson added that the committee hopes to identify another parking space but decided to start with this one space so all drivers can get used to the concept.

She suspected the new accessible parking space would get “used all the time.”

“There is no ideal spot on Main Street, because we don't have the width,” she said.

Currently, the closest accessible parking spaces to Main Street are in the Harmony Lot.

New no-parking zone

The board also approved extending a no-parking zone on the east side of Locust Street, between Maple and Chestnut streets.

Franz Reichsman, who lives in the neighborhood, asked if the town had made the decision to extend the no-parking area based on one person's request to the Traffic Safety Committee.

Elwell explained that every request made to the committee goes through vetting, a process that ends with staff recommendations. Sometimes requests are approved, sometimes they are not, but such decisions are never made at the behest of one person, Elwell said.

Elwell said that the extent to which the town notifies residents affected by such changes varies with the level of change.

Typically, town staff do not knock on every door in a neighborhood. For bigger changes - such as one currently under consideration by the committee to add bike lanes along portions of Western Avenue - town staff will notify people directly.

Residents can make requests for traffic changes to the committee through the “Brattleboro Action Safety Request Form” on the Traffic Safety and Control Committee's page on the town website.

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