Expanded outdoor dining to continue
The Board of Selectmen, on a 3-2 vote, decided to extend on a permanent basis the parking restrictions that were implemented last summer in an effort to protect the quality of life for Hull residents.
Following a “Restricted Parking Review” presentation by Police Chief John Dunn at this week’s remote board meeting, a discussion ensued about what the 2021 summer parking plan might look like.
“Last year’s parking restrictions assisted greatly in controlling the amount of illegal parkers in residential sections of town,” Dunn said, noting that restricted parking in one form or another appears in the town’s records going back to 1996.
Dunn noted that COVID-19 restrictions for entertainment, outside gatherings, hotels, and restaurants could ease by the time milder weather arrives. “The DCR [state Department of Conservation and Recreation] might not restrict its lots to 50 percent capacity as happened last year, and the Nantasket Beach Resort may be open for the summer season,” further adding to Hull’s traffic congestion problems, Dunn said.
During a lengthy conversation about the issue, a number of board members and Town Manager Philip Lemnios floated their ideas and concerns.
A recurring suggestion centered on not granting the Hull Redevelopment Authority the right to open its parking lot to accommodate beachgoers and other visitors for at least the upcoming season.
Dunn suggested that such a move would “greatly reduce the amount of traffic and parking issues in that area.”
Further consideration of the issue will be on the board’s March 3 agenda and is open to comments from the public as well as from private entities that are normally allowed to open their parking lots to residents and visitors during the summer.
“The HRA property was not intended to be a parking lot for 60-plus years,” Lemnios said. “It was intended to be developed, and when that happens the parking will be affected and there will be impacts on adjoining neighborhoods. Maybe this year is an opportunity to test that.”
Board Chairwoman Jennifer Constable pointed out that the intended use of the HRA lot has evolved over the years and that “many people have come to rely on that space for parking.”
The DCR, which controls Nantasket Beach, offers 1,000 spaces for parking, but the number of available spots was greatly reduced last summer due to the coronavirus.
There could be some changes to the parking restrictions this year, including potentially opening up the high school parking lot when school ends for the summer to provide more parking for area businesses, including the Shipwreck’d restaurant.
Dunn said he hopes that the continuation of stiff fines for parking in restricted spots “will cause people to think more before they park in a restricted lot.”
During the pandemic, the town has increased the restricted parking fine to $100 for a vehicle parked for more than four hours. Parking meter fines were increased to $50 and by an additional $50 for violating the time stipulation at a particular meter for a second time.
During 2020, more than 2,300 parking citations were issued, including 1,500 to individuals who parked in areas with restricted parking. The majority of the citations were issued in the Alphabets District and along Beach, Samoset, and Manomet avenues, and in multiple lots throughout town with parking restrictions in place.
The town was fortunate that these restrictions were in effect last summer, Dunn said, because they “lessened the potential for more traffic problems.”
Resident and visitor parking fees are likely to remain the same for this season. Next fall there will be a review of how the parking situation worked out this summer, and parking fees could be revisited at that time.
“Hull has changed dramatically over the years from a seasonal to a year-round community,” Lemnios noted.
Constable voiced concern about potential unintended consequences from parking restrictions in certain areas.
“We need to reach out to businesses that are concerned about potentially losing the HRA parking,” in addition to other private entities that usually allow parking for a fee on their property during the summer months, she said. “Our restaurants and other businesses are part of our local economy and could be facing COVID-19 restrictions again this summer.”
While she acknowledged that Hull’s population multiplies during milder weather, resulting in frustrating traffic congestion, Constable emphasized that the town’s commercial base relies heavily on the influx of traffic from out-of-town visitors and their patronage.
“These businesses are thankful for their loyal local customer base, but that’s not what keeps them sustainable,” she said.
At the end of the discussion, the board voted to reinstate the 2020 parking restrictions for the upcoming season and to allow expanded outdoor dining for Hull restaurants, as was permitted last summer.
Selectman John Reilly suggested asking the DCR for approval to implement 15-minute pick-up zones for restaurants offering takeout service.
Lemnios said there will be future discussion about summer parking restrictions, about which areas will be affected and where “so that there is no ambiguity.”