Sept. 24 is deadline for parking survey submissions

  • Downtown Vitality Committee members, left to right, Holly Young, newest member Steve Wills, Ann Willhite, Town Planner Eric Smith, and Mary Holtorf. Athol Daily News/Kathy Chaisson

Staff Writer
Published: 9/19/2019 9:50:22 PM
Modified: 9/19/2019 9:50:09 PM

ATHOL – The Downtown Athol Parking Study Survey is still under way and Town Planner Eric Smith reported to the Downtown Vitality Committee Tuesday night that as of Friday about 60 people had responded. More recently, a consultant from Stantec, the survey facilitator, indicated that responses had risen to 95.

The Town of Athol is encouraging residents to take the survey to share thoughts and ideas about parking management and improvements and to help the Town understand parking demand, downtown trends and to identify transportation modes. Stantec is working with the Town of Athol under a Massachusetts Downtown Initiative (MDI) grant.

The survey takes about 10 minutes to complete and is available online at http://www.athol-ma.gov, and surveymonkey.com/r/AtholParkingStudy. Paper copies are available at the Athol Public Library. Deadline for submissions is Sept. 24.

The feedback will help develop a set of recommendations that will be presented at a public forum at the library on Oct. 29 from 5 to 8 p.m.

Steve Wills was introduced as a new member of the Downtown Vitality Committee. Holly Young was elected to serve as Acting Chair until member Mary Holtorf becomes chair at the end of October.

In July, the committee discussed the Massachusetts Vacant Storefront District Program and creating a vacant storefront district within downtown Athol. Smith told the committee Tuesday that he learned the design criteria to create such a district is a local decision rather than a state one and that the town can set its own guidelines. More research will be done regarding loan funding and applying for the project.

Young and committee member Ann Willhite, organizers of the First Friday events, plan to continue with the Main Street festival next year. Willhite said she thought the final one on Sept. 6 was well-attended and was the best of the season. Young stepped down as co-organizer but will continue to offer support. It was agreed that because of the high amount of pre-planning that goes into the event, a committee should be established. Willhite said she will handle the vendor aspect and will try to “corral” some business owners.

Willhite also gave an update of the municipal parking garage painting project. She said the Athol Fire Department hosed it clean and the Department of Public Works swept it. It appears that water pressure chipped off some of the existing paint, which should be scraped and addressed before the garage is primed, painted and sealed. Willhite said the DPW is looking into purchasing anti-graffiti sealant that can be sprayed with a hose and washed off, and that the project should be done by the end of October before the weather changes.

The committee is also working on a downtown building owner and business inventory project and drafting a letter that would request input from building owners and landlords to assist with downtown revitalization planning efforts.

Member Paula Robinson expressed concern about the lack of nighttime street lighting near Ocean State Job Lot and noticed that the cobra head streetlights were on during the daytime. It was questioned whether they are owned by the Town or National Grid. Holtorf suggested the committee obtain a map of street lights and pole numbers. Smith said Thursday that he learned they are town lights and the matter is now being worked on.

The next Downtown Vitality Committee meeting is scheduled for Oct. 15, 6 p.m. at the Town Hall.


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