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Officials question Nashua parking proposal

Union Leader Correspondent

May 23. 2013 8:06PM

NASHUA — Several aldermen voiced concerns this week about a proposed pilot program that would allow overnight parking on select downtown roads in the Tree Streets neighborhood.

“We have many things to consider with this policy,” said Alderman Diane Sheehan, Ward 3, who was the most vocal opponent of the proposed ordinance.

Sheehan questioned whether the proposal — if approved by the Board of Aldermen — would add density to an already crowded area, increase crime, impact businesses and possibly reduce owner-occupied residences.

Currently, overnight parking of more than two-hours is banned along any public roadway in the city. Violators are now fined a minimum of $25.

On Wednesday, the aldermanic Committee on Infrastructure reviewed the proposed ordinance to allow overnight parking on at least a portion of 20 downtown streets.

The pilot program will enable on-street parking between midnight and 6 a.m. on 20 specified roads. Residents who live on those 20 streets will be allowed to purchase a $100 permit enabling them to park overnight on their street. The proposal recommends that a maximum of 300 permits be issued, and that overnight parking during snow emergencies still be prohibited.

While overnight parking could be an enhancement to the Tree Streets, Sheehan said there are still a lot of issues that need to be addressed, including whether permits will be issued to individuals or to specific vehicles, how police will enforce the parking and how streets will be cleaned.

Alderman-at-Large David Deane said parking vehicles along the street in an already busy area could create an obstacle for emergency vehicles.

“I just think it puts our law enforcement at a distinct disadvantage,” said Deane. “… I think we should take a real hard look.”

Alderman Richard Dowd, Ward 2, echoed those concerns, noting prior problems with gangs and violence in the Tree Streets. If police attempt to confront a possible criminal, Dowd said, parked vehicles could be a good hiding spot for a suspect.

In the end, Dowd said the overnight, on-street parking could cause more problems for city employees than originally expected.

Despite some of the negative comments, a few aldermen are highly supportive of the project.

“If we are not willing to take risks in neighborhoods like the Tree Streets, then nothing will ever change there,” said Alderman-at-Large Lori Wilshire. Acknowledging that the proposal still needs more attention, Wilshire contended that it is only a pilot program, and that if it doesn’t work, the overnight on-street parking could conclude at the end of the one-year trial.

Alderman-at-Large James Donchess, who drafted the proposal, agrees that changes need to take place in order to improve the quality of life for residents in that area.

“The Tree Streets have always been an issue. I think we should try something,” said Donchess. “I don’t agree with these dire predictions.”

Sheehan suggested that instead of on-street parking, perhaps the establishment of small parking pods should be considered or other options to provide some assistance.

Capt. Bruce Hansen of the Nashua Police Department said he is not opposed to the pilot program, but explained the department needs the tools to enforce the new parking regulations.

“This is Pandora’s box that we are looking into,” warned Marc Plamondon, a former city alderman who is opposed to the proposal.

He questioned how the streets would be cleaned with cars parked on them overnight, how fire trucks would have access to homes and how many residents in the same household would receive a permit.

In some instances, there may be several residents in one home that could be subdivided into three residences, explained Plamondon, adding there could be five vehicles for one building.

The committee delayed voting on the proposal, and instead is seeking impact statements from the public works, police and fire departments, along with maps from the city’s traffic engineer.

The streets included in the proposal are portions of: Ash, Badger, Beech, Buck, Cedar, Central, Chestnut, Elm, Hanover, Kinsley, Mulberry, Palm, Pierce, Pine, Pleasant, Vine, Walnut, West Hollis, West Pearl and Wilder streets.

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