Several months ago, Bleu Terwilliger, head of the village's Department of Public Works, had written a memo to the Board of Trustees suggesting that they consider making several streets utilize alternate sides for parking (rotating daily). This way, they could move their snowplows through more easily, clear streets more effectively and maneuver other large equipment on some narrow village streets with greater ease.
The subject has been tossed around for a while. And it was revisited when a group of residents on Church Street lobbied for alternate side of the street parking, claiming that emergency vehicles had a difficult time getting through the street after snow storms.
These neighbors also complained that cars were often parked on the streets for days at a time, or longer, that their driveways had been blocked and thought alternate side of the street parking would be one way to ameliorate these issues.
At last week's public hearing, the room upstairs at Village Hall was filled with residents -- both renters and property owners -- who voiced their concerns and opposition to the proposed change.
"As someone who works and lives on Church Street, I know how difficult it can be for me to find a parking space," Jack Gordon said. "I was told that people who lived on Church Street would receive parking permits when you metered the one-way section, but we have not."
In regards to making the remainder of Church Street one-way, Gordon said that "there are a number of small businesses on Church Street and North Front Street that have clientele who park on Church Street. If you limit their parking, then you limit their clientele and I hope you're taking into consideration what type of impact this would have on our small business community, particularly during rough economic times."
Trustee Shari Osborn noted that the board had received a number of letters and e-mails from business owners on this proposed change and said that "this is part of the reason that we're extending the public hearing so that we can hear from as many people as possible who might be affected by this change."
Tim Brennan, a property owner on North Oakwood Terrace, spoke to the traffic-calming effect parked cars can have. "When you reduce or eliminate on-street parking, then cars just go faster," he said. "They already go fast enough on our street, I would hate to see anything done that would encourage them to speed even more ... I'm also afraid that if you take away parking spaces for people that do not have driveways, then you will force them to park on front lawns and backyards. Many of our sewer lines are located beneath our backyards and they are old and fragile to begin with. Having cars parked in backyards would only compound a delicate situation."
Ben Olsen and Jeff Fonda, president and vice president, respectively, of the SUNY New Paltz Student Association, both came out to lobby against the proposal.
"We've had a number of students express concern about this proposed change, that they'd have nowhere to park, no way of getting around, visiting home, getting to work," Olsen said. "We do not support this change in the code."
Several people said that they had never seen an emergency vehicle have difficulty making it through their streets.
Mayor Terry Dungan asked former Elting Memorial Library President Sally Rhoads to speak to her concern about library parking.
"I'm not speaking for the library," she said. "And I know we have a problem and there is no perfect solution. But I'm concerned that the abuse of the library's parking lot would become an even greater problem if parking spaces were eliminated on Church Street. It's been a tremendous problem and the library certainly does not want to be an ogre and tow people from the lot who are not parking there to utilize the library."
The board said that they would continue the public hearing at their next meeting, Feb. 11 at 7:30 p.m.