Goffstown parking ban pulls up the welcome mat at Glen Lake
I ask this this slightly awkward question because of its many interpretations.
Such as, What is Goffstown? A semi-rural town favored by people who desire a few more trees than those of us who live on tiny, quarter-acre city lots in Manchester.
Or a suburban refuge for people who work, shop and play in the big city next door, only to run home at night and lock their doors to keep city people out.
Ken Scarpetti, a Manchester business owner, will soon find out.
This August, he ran afoul of Goffstown's 2-year-old resident-only parking system at the town's Glen Lake beach, school and boat launch.
Basically, the ordinance means a $25 ticket for any out-of-towner who dares to park close enough to enjoy the Piscataquog River impoundment - otherwise known as Glen Lake - during daylight hours in the late spring and summer.
Scarpetti did so, but unknowingly, he maintains.
He said he visited the area to go boating with a friend. He parked at Glen Lake School and walked through the woods to the boat launch. He said he didn't see either of the two signs that spell out Goffstown Town Ordinance 201.01, which basically tells him and any other out-of-towners to get out.
If he had, it still wouldn't be clear. Because, when you try to keep people out of your town for some reasons (like swimming) but not others, it gets confusing.
In a nutshell, here's what the signs say at Glen Lake: Residents can only park along Elm Street and at the school.
But at the school parking lot, signs say 'Parking for School Business Only.'
Yet, the sign down by the river says residents are allowed to park at the school. And the school playground sign reads 'Welcome' and says it's available for public use after school hours.
(Parenthetically, I'll mention that anyone can park at the boat-launch if a trailer is attached to their car. Canoeists and kayakers, you're out of luck, or at least out of Glen Lake.)
Scarpetti relied on the sign at the playground, which said it was available for public use.
'How did they know I was even at the beach?' Scarpetti said. He could have been walking his daughter around school grounds or - as he was - on a boat in the river.
'The bottom line is, we were trying to do the right thing,' he said.
He said it became a joke when he tried to fight the ticket.
The town citation doesn't tell people how to contest the ticket, just where to send the fine and a warning that it could be doubled if not paid promptly.
He submitted a handwritten note demanding a court date. Police twice tried to serve him a summons, and when they did it was for a meeting with the police prosecutor.
Scarpetti said the prosecutor said the town was sick of picking up trash from out-of-town residents, that it would be expensive to post another sign at the school parking lot, and that the ticket was now $50 because he hadn't paid it in time.
'Just because you want to contest it they can raise the price of a ticket?' he asked.
Of note: As of this week, 81 of the town's 121 parking tickets written so far this year have been put under windshield wipers at Glen Lake, according to Goffstown police.
Scarpetti said he understands keeping the Elm Street parking for residents only, and signs along the road are clear enough. Yet he - and all of us city folk - know the real reason for the ordinance is to keep us out.
What, Goffstown, are you doing?
David Pierce, the chairman of the board of selectmen, said the ordinance has been a success. Selectmen passed it because town residents felt they were getting crowded out of beachfront parking, he said.
'It's definitely improved from the point of view of overcrowded conditions,' Pierce said. 'We felt 95 percent of the overcrowding was non-residents.'
He did note that anyone can park on residential streets, which are about a quarter-mile from the beach.
The town's other beach, at Uncanoonuc Lake, is also limited to residents only, he said.
Maybe that's the best thing for Goffstown. Afterall, What good is Goffstown? It's a location for our TV and radio antennae and a convenient spot for a women's prison. And heck, the town's most prominent institution, St. Anselm College, wants everyone to think it's in Manchester, not Goffstown.
What, then, should Goffstown do?
Manchester, which makes its pools available to anyone about half the day, learned a long time ago how to control parking. Goffstown people don't have to worry about resident stickers, ordinances or confusing signs when they visit downtown for a dinner or a show, or drive into the Millyard to work.
All they need do is bring their wallet. Because in this city, it doesn't matter where you're from or what you look like.
Only one color matters - green.
Mark Hayward's City Matters appears in the New Hampshire Union Leader and UnionLeader.com on Thursdays. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.