Like drivers throughout town, the Parker Harding project is still waiting for a green light.
Meeting virtually last night, the Planning & Zoning Commission deferred a decision on the first phase of a long-debated plan for the area between the backs of Main Street stores, and the Saugatuck River.
Public Works director Pete Ratkiewich and Downtown Plan Implementation Committee chair Randy Herbertson presented the newest iteration of the first phase of the plan. Officially, this was an “8-24” review at the request of 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker.
After much public feedback, it reinstates the cut-through road from Main Street to the Post Road.
It also calls for 2-way traffic closest to the backs of Main Street stores; the addition of green space near the riverl the relocation of the dumpsters away from their current central location, and — most controversially — a reduction of 45 parking spaces.
The Parker Harding plan. Click on or hover over to enlarge.
Ratkiewich explained that the decision on parking spots resulted from a combination of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, new standards for parking spots (the current ones are too tight), and the maneuverability of fire equipment.
Commissioners and members of the public offered many comments and questions. While praising parts of the plan, they found the elimination of nearly 4 dozen parking spots problematic.
They asked about traffic patterns, perpendicular rather than angled parking, sustainability and flooding.
Parker Harding Plaza flooded on October 27, 2018. There was no rain — just an unexpected high tide. (Photo/Eliza Barr for Inklings)
They also wondered about the sequence of steps. The DPIC has reimagined all of downtown, including the Taylor (“lower library”) lot by Jesup Green, and the lot on Imperial Avenue now used by the Westport Farmers’ Market.
Since the Taylor/Jesup Green plan adds parking (and a playground) downtown, they asked, why not do that work prior to Parker Harding?
If town officials do not want to add parking there before eliminating it behind Main Street, they suggested the plan be reconsidered to improve fire safety, add the 4 ADA-compliant handicap spaces the lot currently lacks, spruce up landscaping and the current boardwalk — but also retain more parking.
The DPIC is still waiting for a green light. At Ratkiewich’s request — and after 3 hours of talk — the P&Z agreed to continue its discussion on November 6.
A screenshot from the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee shows the current Parker Harding lot. The cut-through lane closest to the river would be moved further east, adding green space. The middle cut-through would be eliminated. Parking spaces would be widened, to meet current regulations.
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