Input on proposed parking changes gives selectmen pause


October 24, 2012
TILTON — Input from a public hearing on proposed parking changes in one section of town soon revealed to Tilton selectmen last week that there were more issues than sidewalk accessibility to be addressed.

A parking and sidewalk proposal was drawn up through a collaboration of the police and highway departments, identifying problem areas along Chestnut, Cedar, Prospect and High Streets after selectmen began to hear complaints about cars parking in the designated sidewalks.

"People couldn't even walk their dogs or their kids along the sidewalk because cars were parked there," said Selectman Pat Consentino.

Besides the danger of having pedestrians in the street when vehicles are parked on the walkways, Public Works director Dennis Allen said it also created problems for plowing the walks in the winter, despite a winter parking ordinance.

At the onset of the meeting, residents only sought clarification of recommendations before the board to alter parking patterns and make sidewalks more accessible.

The recommendations from the study call for no parking along the west side of Chestnut Street, the south side of High Street between Cedar and Chestnut, and on the north side of High Street. It also suggested no parking on the east side of Cedar and Prospect Streets, and public works crews would stencil "No Parking" on the sidewalks throughout the neighborhoods.

Resident Kevin LaChappelle said moving vehicles off the sidewalk and onto the side of the streets only creates a problem for those driving through the area as it narrows the driving lanes. Consentino explained that was why there would be no parking at all along one side of the streets, to leave adequate space for two-way traffic to pass through.

"Our other alternative was to make some of the streets one way," she said.

Soon however, residents broached the subject of speed, vehicle break-ins and noncompliance with traffic signs and signals on those streets, overshadowing the sidewalk issue.

Patricia Laro said cars frequently fly along Prospect Street, and stop signs in the area are ignored. LaChappelle agreed and told the select board, "I'd rather focus on installing speed bumps."

Frank Laro said his neighborhood is a short cut for kids driving to nearby Winnisquam Regional High School, and they race to beat the lights at the intersection of Main and Prospect Street. Consentino said she had observed the same thing but it wasn't just teenage drivers.

"It's employees of the schools, New Hampshire Veterans Home and a lot more," she said.

Suggestions of stop signs to slow drivers down where other side streets intersect with Prospect Street were not viewed as a real solution by some residents. They felt the signs would just make the offenders use other streets to speed along. Several said increased police patrols to slow speeds and stop sign violations would be a big benefit though.

"You could use the money from tickets to install speed bumps then," Laro said.

Allen informed residents that speed bumps, like one recently installed on Cedar Street, are only a seasonal solution however, as they are removed for winter plowing each year.

LaChapelle suggested selectmen consult with the Department of Transportation to see if a traffic engineering study might be done on the streets in question and the board agreed to inquire the feasibility of having one done.

Another complaint was that of recent vehicle break-ins in the neighborhood. Chief Robert Cormier agreed his department has seen an increase in thefts in the area and have stepped up their patrols, especially in the early morning hours between midnight and 5 a.m. He advised residents to keep their cars locked and call in any suspicious activity.

"There are police officers out there though. If you haven't seen them, that's because they may be out there walking the streets in plain clothes," said Cormier.

After an hour of back and forth discussion, the board said it was obvious they need consideration of the parking recommendations, since the hearing had presented them with "a lot more to think about."

Selectman Al LaPlante said he would like to encourage more people to send in their thoughts and suggestions on the issues facing residents of those streets.

"They can email them to us right here at town hall," LaPlante said.

A second public hearing on the matter will be held in the near future.

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