Photo: The Underwood Pool parking lot will be available for student parking this week.
Based on recommendations from the Middle and High School Traffic Working Group, the Belmont Select Board added three new streets to an expanding number of side streets in which High School students are banned from parking on school days while expending the time the existing “temporary” restricts will be in place by three weeks.
The new streets were added to the inventory of roadways at the board’s Jan. 24 meeting after residents complained their streets were impacted by students migrating from side streets placed under parking restrictions approved by the Select Board on Dec. 20.
“This announcement has generated quite a response,” said Roy Epstein, the Select Board’s vice chair who ran the meeting as Chair Adam Dash recused himself as he lives on one of the streets [Goden Street] under the regulations.
Epstein noted the Task Force recommendations are prompted by resident complaints of student drivers parking along side streets since the opening of the high school wing of the Belmont Middle and High School that is under construction.
“It has created a situation that we had to address. It made the streets dangerous for pedestrians and impassable for vehicles on numerous occasions and we felt we had to act,” said Epstein. The first set of restrictions – no parking from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. beginning on January 3 – were focused on Oak and Orchard streets off the southside of Concord Avenue.
The result of the initial action was students migrated over to nearby Stone and Louise roads. The reaction by those residents were as expected: move the kids.
The new streets with restricted parking bans include:
- Stone Road,
- Louise Road from Concord Avenue to the intersection with Emerson Street, and
- Emerson Street from Concord Avenue to the intersection with Louise Road.
The ban takes effect Jan. 31.
The Board also extended the end date of the trial from Jan. 28 to Feb. 18 to allow the board to consider further recommendations from the Traffic Working Group to be presented on Valentines Day.
But Epstein wanted to make it clear: the committee’s aim is to disperse student parking and not to make it impossible for students to park. In recognition that parking options are being taken off the board on the three streets, the task force made three endorsements to make up for those lost spaces.
The first is to remove the reserved parking spaces on the north (or school) side of Concord Avenue from Underwood Street to the light pole across from Becket Road as “virtually no students have parked there since September,” said Epstein. The school administration provided 100 permits at the beginning of the school year to seniors with corresponding spaces. Yet only 50 to 55 of the spaces are filled on a daily basis, said Lawrence Link, one of the resident members of the working group.
While the committee did not speculate why the spaces were unused, there is some indication that many of the first time drivers find it unnerving to parallel park on a busy roadway such as Concord Avenue during the morning rush hour and feel safer sliding into a space on a quiet side street.
This action will allow more parking along Concord Avenue for students who did not receive permits and the public.
The second and third recommendations are to allow all-day parking in the Underwood Pool lot and on the Concord Avenue pool drop-off area stretching from Myrtle Street to the library exit, freeing up an additional 15 spaces.
While there has been some parents questioning the steps taken by the task force as targeting students, Link believes more parents will “now feel more comfortable because they know spots are available.”
Epstein said the committee’s expectation is to fill in the unused space on Concord Avenue and use new spots near the pool “to accommodate all of the students currently parking on the side streets.” If it becomes evident that more spaces are needed, there is a possibility the task force will recommend a limited number of student drivers via permits to park on side streets, said Epstein.
The adjustments will allow the Task Force ample time to conduct a complete evaluation before presenting final recommendations to the Select Board on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14.