July 18, 2012TILTON — Selectmen in Tilton held a public hearing last Thursday to receive input from residents and local merchants concerning a request for a motorcycle only parking place on Main Street.
The request came from Joel Weinreb and Shari Lebreche, who operates Haircuts for Men at 281 Main St. in downtown Tilton. Weinreb said many customers of the shop drive motorcycles, and Lebreche owns one, as well. Parking regulations along Main Street require merchants and their employees to leave their vehicles in a municipal lot behind the downtown stores in order to leave room for visitors to park along the busy street. Weinreb said motorcyclists risk theft or vandalism, though, if their bikes are left unattended in the municipal lot, and he proposed that selectmen create a motorcycle only slot.
"A motorcycle is not a car, not a truck. They need to be secured properly," he said.
By designating a spot in front of the Northfield-Tilton Congregational Church, Weinreb believed customers at the barber shop would be able to keep an eye on their expensive vehicles. The bike owners would also feel more secure in knowing the motorcycles would not be as susceptible to the theft of saddlebags and other expensive items, as they could be if they were parked elsewhere.
While only a few neighboring merchants were able to attend the hearing, one business sent an email voicing their opinion. In it, Michael Gagne stated it did not make sense to him to limit already restricted parking for customers.
Town Clerk/Tax Collector Cindy Reinartz also spoke out against the idea, saying, "Hey, I've got a blue Nissan, and I'd like my own parking spot, too."
Selectman Katherine Dawson said she believed the theory behind Weinreb's proposal to also be that more than one motorcycle can park in a spot, freeing up space. She said she had been to North Conway and driven through other towns where designated motorcycle parking spaces contained multiple vehicles, thus leaving more room along the downtown business areas. Board member Sandy Plessner disagreed with the theory.
Plessner stated that since motorcycles already park together in a space, there is no need to designate one particular parking space.
"If they're already doing that, then there's nothing gained," Plessner said.
Chairman Pat Consentino said on rainy days, a "Motorcycles Only" designation would mean one less spot for those driving an automobile in a town with already limited parking.
"As it is, on a Saturday morning, I have to go around the block a few times to find a place to park. If you designate one for just motorcycles, that's one less spot for others," she said.
Al LaPlante, a selectman and also a motorcyclist, said he understood Weinreb's position, but in a town already coping with parking issues, he could not condone giving up one of the spaces for a select group of vehicles. He pointed out that in his travels, there are many locations where riders have to leave their motorcycles out of sight, and it is something they have to accept and deal with, or decide not to park at all.
"Wherever I go, I take that risk. That's why I put insurance on my bike," he said.
Consentino said one of the biggest complaints the town receives concerns the lack of handicapped parking along Main Street, and if she was to designate specialized parking spaces, she would rather it be for that, not motorcycles. Weinreb was quick to agree that he, too, felt handicapped parking was very important, but still saw the need to give motorcycles a secure spot for their vehicles, too.
In a vote following the hearing, selectmen Joe Jessemen and Katherine Dawson supported Weinreb, but with "no" votes from Consentino, Plessner and LaPlante, the motion failed.
Parking will remain open to all vehicles along Main Street on a first come, first served basis for up to two hours per visit. Long term, residential and merchant parking is still available in the municipal lot behind Main Street.