P&Z Puts Brakes On Parker Harding

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.

(Every day, “06880” covers important issues like this. If you support local journalism, please consider a tax-deductible contribution. Click here — and thank you!)

8 responses to “P&Z Puts Brakes On Parker Harding

  1. Ok, time to push ahead and get Parker Harding cleaned up. As members of the commission and the public and many RTM members said: spruce it up, add ADA compliant spots, make it accessible for fire trucks and minimize lost parking spaces. Had that been the DPIC mandate, this would have been done a long time ago.

  2. Oh the pesky “unexpected” high tides. Mr. McCarthy is right on the money here. Time for the KISS principle..

  3. How much is this going to cost taxpayers? One thing Westport does well is spend money!

  4. Glad to see some common sense finally enter the room. Here’s hoping it starts a trend (Long Lots School plan without destroying the gardens – I’m looking at you!). A girl can hope…

  5. Happy to see common sense appears to have prevailed, at least for the day! There would have been a far different outcome if not for all of the push back from downtown businesses, business owners, and residents.

    Hopefully this is a blueprint for action on further action with the Long Lots Community Garden. Make the school the priority and find a better solution for the Parks and Rec baseball field. There are numerous fields throughout town which could be cleaned up and improved with the money currently be earmarked for a new synthetic grass field.

    • Doug, thank you for taking the lead this summer on the online petition which got well over 1,000 signatures opposed to the Parker Harding plan. Great work, it made a big difference.

      I look forward to voting for you as you run for RTM in District 9. Excited to have your voice in the mix.

  6. I want to do shout out to Doug for doing the petition and getting over 1000 signatures I do no the merchants downtown and the residents are grateful to you for doing this I am to thanks Doug from sal

  7. I think it was very clear at last nights meeting that everybody except the DPIC committee is concerned about parking and losing it.
    It was also clear that the initial 2015 DPIC plan and 2019 plan were amongst looking at green space also to look at how to bring back a “dead” Main Street.
    That was one of its purposes.
    Well we beat them to it.
    We have a vibrant and very rejuvenated Main Street and down town and as a result of changing times, requirements have also changed.

    Everyone wants to see more A.D.A, parking and access, that goes without saying. BUT the mention of health and safety and public safety at the meeting last night was literally irrelevant.
    In fact I suggest the parking lot “as is” is far far more safe than the proposed one.

    The other conversation point has to be, do the jesup lot first but before doing that one, do IMPERIAL !
    Fix the pot holes which have been “ignored” for years.. and will take 1 hour !
    Then move to imperial. Do this lot first !
    It’s in even worse disrepair than the parker Harding lot. I mean fix it already.
    Then and only then move on to look for approval of your PH plan showing our P and Zcomission that you have put your money where your mouth is and provided a finished, fixed, safe lot as an extra/additional/ parking so merchants don’t go out of business during the 6 months. Find a new arrangement for the Thursday farmers market.
    Put on a shuttle, it’s not a 7 minute walk. That is a LIE ! It is a 17 minute walk !
    17 minutes. Yep. Anyone who says it’s 7 is dreaming and has not walked it. I have.
    Imperial to nômade 17 minutes.
    Nobody’s walking it in the rain/snow/ice/ extreme heat.
    Put your money where your mouth is and fix IMPERIAL. Then move to jesup.
    Parker Harding works fabulously well for the time being.

What do you think? Please comment! Remember: All commenters must use full, real names!