2006-09-14 / Front Page

Council adopts new parking ordinance

By Dotti Farrington

The Town Council Monday spent about half of its two-hour meeting listening to Jamestown Shores' residents talk about parking needs at Head's Beach,

town-owned beach located at their 733-home development. The councilors then voted 3 -2 for a new parking ordinance.

The new rules basically provide that designated beach parking will be available to Jamestown residents at a cost of $15 for a parking sticker. Non-residents will have to pay $30 for a parking sticker.

Discussion by councilors and residents led to a promise by the council to provide a single sticker that will allow residents to park at Head's Beach, Mackerel Cove, Fort Getty, and West Ferry. A separate sticker will be designed for non-residents to park only at Head's Beach. Stickers will be affixed to car windshields.

The discussion between the councilors and residents suggested that parking would not resolve some Head's Beach issues, including a lack of maintenance and trash removal and continued poor parking options, especially at peak fishing times. Councilman William Kelly, who voted against the ordinance, said the problems included fishing times conflicting with swimming and general beach uses.

Some Shores residents have been clamoring for years to get the town to help them with problems at their beach, but others in the area are concerned that the parking regulations might result in a "gated community" where restrictions to control non-resident parking would negatively impact townspeople.

Councilman Michael Schnack, who also opposed the ordinance, said he was sure it would restrict the area for both locals and offislanders, rather than limit parking for non-residents. He wanted to see the parking allocation plan before committing to the sticker plan. Schnack predicted that the ordinance would cause more problems by dispersing parkers along Shores streets.

At least one resident complained that the plan would block even his relatives from parking near his home. Kelly said the suggested plan for restricted parking along 1,000 feet of Shores roads in the vicinity of the beach represented about five blocks.

Councilor Barbara Szepatowski, who voted for the ordinance with Council President David Long and Vice President Julio DiGiando, said she could agree to the ordinance as presented but was prepared to oppose any parking plan that would restrict parking for everyone. The plan was being prepared by Deputy Public Works Director Michael Gray, in cooperation with the town Parking and Traffic Committee, under the direction of Police Chief Thomas Tighe, who recommended the parking ordinance.

Charlotte Zarlengo, president of the Jamestown Shores Association, said her group supported the ordinance. Later, her husband Phil had members indicate their support by standing. About 20 people stood up.

Gary Girard, currently chairman of the Planning Commission and a former Shores association president, said he applauded the efforts made to resolve the beach parking problems. He said problems have existed since the town took possession of the beach in the early 1990s. The beach was patrolled, cleaned, and had a sticker system until the town took it over, Girard pointed out. He said that the beach use should be encouraged, and that the fee plan for non-residents sticker was a fair way for them to share the costs of maintaining the beach.

Shores association historian Hazel Turley confirmed Girard's comments. She also said that Shores property owners have deeded beach rights. The town should help maintain the beach, Turley said, and she suggested that the town consult with state Coastal Resources Management Council officials, who helped the town of Barrington develop its rights-ofway for public access, especially for fishing.

One resident suggested the non-resident cost be higher, but Lauriston Parks, associate town solicitor, said applicable law says the non-resident fee cannot be more than twice the resident cost. Some residents were also concerned about parking for non-residents resulting in less parking for elderly residents who cannot walk far and need to drive to the beach.

Another speaker asked if the town is obliged to provide parking.

Parks said the beach was purchased with a parking lot, indicating that it needs to be maintained. Tighe said parking is on a "firstcome, first-serve" basis, and Parks said spaces could not be reserved for residents only.

Sav Rebecchi, another former shores association president, said he was cynical about some information discussed in relationship to the parking. He said there is no easy access, despite 12 rights-ofway to the waters of West Passage of Narragansett Bay, where Head's Beach is located. The access is limited because the town gives no priority to maintenance, he added. Some 75 property owners are located on the water, but the remaining Shores residents have "no easy access, he said." Rebecchi suggested that the association's position was "a way to keep out others," including anyone without waterfront property.

Girard said deeds give rights to cross land to get to the bay waters, but do not specify rights-of-way. Turley said the rights-of-way were heavily weeded and could be cleared to provide more parking. She offered to organize a committee to work for more parking.

DiGiando said he was concerned that providing sticker parking at Head's Beach would lead to many requests for such arrangements for other rights-ofway, even if overgrown, because there would be complaints from some residents if those areas were cleared.

Long said the ordinance is fair and does no harm. He and others also thought problems stemming from not enough parking spaces occurred only occasionally during peak times in the summer.

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