Select Board Eyes Parking and Traffic Changes

Deputy Police Chief David Clark, representing the Parking Traffic Transportation Task Force, shared several proposed changes to the town’s parking and traffic regulations at the February 26 Select Board meeting. Expressing concern about safety during the drop-off period at Joshua Eaton Elementary School, Clark proposed a thirty-day trial preventing left-hand turns from Oak Street onto Summer Avenue from 7:30 to 8:30 in the morning on school days. He also suggested that two of the parking spaces in front of the school be transformed into drop-off only spaces during the same hours. While any permanent changes would require the board to hold public hearings, the thirty-day trial only required the approval of the board, which voted 5-0 to endorse the concept. Clark assured the board that enforcement would primarily be educational in nature.

Chief Clark, aided by Lieutenant Christine Amendola, made several other parking and traffic proposals, including reduced speed limits on Haverhill Street. The current limits for the 12,000 vehicles on the street each day, changes from forty miles per hour to thirty-five, then back to forty along the route. Clark recommended that the speed limit is dropped to thirty miles per hour along the entire Reading stretch of Haverhill Street. The speed limit coming out of North Reading is thirty-five miles per hour. Clark also would like to have a traffic study performed to determine if a traffic light at the intersection of Haverhill and Franklin Streets would improve the efficiency and safety of the intersection.

Clark also proposed that parking is prohibited on Linden Street between Haven Street and Brande Court. This has been requested by the Fire Department as the ladder trucks often cannot make the turn onto Linden Street. Clark recommended that parking spaces on Lincoln Street between Prescott Street and Fulton Street be limited to two hours. It was also recommended that two additional spaces on Haven Street be reduced to thirty-minute spaces. The two-hour parking signs on the east side of Elliot Street should be reposted, Clark believes that they were removed for sidewalk work.

The proposal which has the potential to be the most controversial is a plan to increase the parking times in the Brande Court parking lot and the Upper Municipal parking lot from two-hour to four-hour parking. This has been suggested by several local business owners that believe that it will encourage people to spend more time at downtown businesses. Assistant Town Manager Jean Delios suggested that the change would encourage people to “park once” in the business district. “I don’t take changing anything lightly,” Clark affirmed, “We did a lot of research.”

The Select Board did not vote on any of the changes but will hold public hearings in March to allow residents to weigh in before voting on the proposals.

The Select Board reviewed the processes for the inspections of new developments in town. This came about after concern that the Lincoln/Prescott Street 40B development was placed two feet closer to the street than the site plans called for. Although the change was made to comply with fire code, it was not uncovered by town staff until the “as-built” plans were delivered in December, months after the foundation had been poured and construction had started. The Zoning Board of Appeals ruled at its January 16 meeting that the changes were “insubstantial.” Many residents have expressed concerns regarding the change because it extends balconies over the sidewalk and that it could restrict sight lines around the building.

Delios shared that two changes have been made to the process. First, written decisions will include a ‘no permit for vertical construction’ issued on any project until stamped “as built” plans have been delivered to the town. This has already been done for the Eaton/Lakeview 40B project. The second process change is that the permit will be held until those plans can be measured and verified. “It’s about getting the confidence of the community,” board member Barry Berman commented.

The board also heard from residents regarding noise at the site. Delios confirmed that some sound abatement around an on-site generator had been completed by the developer and that this was the first she had been made aware that there were continuing issues. Residents also complained about broken fencing at the site and about contractors continuing to park on the street, despite being ticketed. Town Manager Robert LeLacheur informed the board that a meeting about other options for enforcement available to the town would be discussed at a Wednesday morning meeting.

The board voted 5-0 to issue a proclamation to Julianne DeAngelis, thanking her for commitment to the community through her work for the Reading Coalition Against Substance Abuse. Library Director Amy Lannon presented a brief history of the Reading Public Library which is celebrating its 150th Anniversary this year. Resident Jeanne Barowski updated the board on the plans for the town’s 375th anniversary celebration. Town Manager Robert LeLacheur informed the board that the town has recently received two grants. The first is from the Massachusetts Division Initiative for $15,000 to help with the formation of a downtown economic steering organization. The second is for $500,000 that will be used to work on a small bridge by REI.

Members of the board questioned the process of placing an item regarding health fines on their agenda, which included charts of fines since 2009 in their packet with no context. LeLacheur also expressed concern that he had staff who were concerned about the agenda item and he had no answers for them as he did not understand what the item was about. Select Board Chair Andrew Friedmann commented that his concerns had been alleviated after meeting with the Board of Health. “I could have done better in providing background on this,” Friedmann confirmed.

The Select Board concluded with a review of the proposals for amending its policies. These policies will be reviewed by town counsel in time for the board to have a public hearing on the changes on March 12.

The Select Board adjourned at 11:05 pm.

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