Downtown Vitality Committee eyes parking improvements 

  • The Downtown Vitality Committee met with a consultant from Stantec to discuss the Downtown Parking Management Plan project. From left to right: Paula Robinson, Whitney Burdge of Stantec, Diane DiPietro, Mary Holtorf and Director of Planning and Community Development Eric Smith. —Athol Daily News/Kathy Chaisson

Staff Writer
Published: 6/12/2019 9:55:24 PM

ATHOL – A potential community project might help raise the economic pulse of downtown by making parking improvements. Transportation Planner Whitney Burdge, a consultant for Stantec, which will provide technical assistance, told the Downtown Vitality Committee on Tuesday that “we’re really excited about this plan.” The Downtown Parking Management Plan project is funded by a Massachusetts Downtown Initiative grant. Burdge said they have already been checking the downtown parking situation several times a day to identify issues and will develop a plan for existing spaces such as Main Street and Lord Pond Plaza to be utilized and shared.

DVC member Mary Holtorf said currently the parking meter money goes into a general fund and suggested using it to help fund police patrol downtown. The board discussed electronic parking meters that accept debit cards. Committee member Paula Robinson said that there are some who might prefer to stick with the coin-fed method because not everyone will use a debit card.

Burdge said that Stantec will assess land use data and find a way to maximize it. A field study of downtown will be conducted to evaluate overall parking conditions and multimodal access between parking and downtown destinations. They will seek to understand how the parking system works, what signs and regulations are present, how walking from parking is accommodated, what barriers exist, and make a database of parking inventory.

Stantec will also facilitate up to three meetings for the public and stakeholders as well as an online survey. An open house will be held in the fall to collect public input on the findings and proposed strategies.

Other agenda items were postponed due to a lack of quorum. Director of Planning and Community Development Eric Smith said chairman Herb Wheeler and Stephen Raymond recently resigned from the board and others were not able to attend the meeting. Smith said he will prepare a press release to recruit members to fill the vacancies.

The next Downtown Vitality Committee meeting will be held on Tuesday, July 16 at the Town Hall.

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