I write this letter to the members of the Board of Selectmen after speaking with numerous business owners in town and the Hull Nantasket Chamber of Commerce board members for their opinions, feedback, and suggestions regarding the proposal to limit or even close the Hull Redevelopment Authority parking lot for the Summer 2021 season.
The general consensus among everyone I communicated with is that closing this lot will have a detrimental effect on the residents near the HRA lot and will have negative consequences on the businesses in that area and throughout town as well. Let me explain the rationale.
By limiting the capacity or closing the HRA lot entirely, those who would have parked there (day trippers, extended stay guests and locals from other parts of town) will then choose to park, albeit illegally, in the nearby residential areas, adding additional stresses to those residents. This shift in parking patterns will also change traffic flow patterns as sidewalks and front lawns fill up, making it more difficult and less safe for pedestrian traffic as well as public safety vehicles to pass in case of emergencies. Additionally, if these visitors are parked further away, there is less of a chance they will visit any of our new or seasoned businesses that are nearby, thus limiting that business owner from potential earnings, causing the hiring of less staff, and ultimately resulting in a decrease in the town’s tax revenue from these lost sales.
There are secondary side effects that are not good for business across town either. By restricting or closing the HRA lot, the message being put forth is: “The town of Hull doesn’t want you here.” This will negatively affect all the businesses in town, whether next to the HRA lot, by the Hull Artists’ Studios, at the Carousel and Steamboat Wharf, in the Kenberma district, through the Alphabet streets, and by the Lifesaving Museum and Pemberton Point. Considering we are now in the midst of trying to recover from the worst pandemic in our lifetime, this is not the right message to send.
Life is very different than it was last March. Last year, as the virus was accelerating globally, no one had any answers. The president and governors across the country created different policies and mandates based on limited evidence and out of an abundance of caution as they were beginning to see how to slow the spread and flatten the curve. I believe the Board of Selectmen made a good call last year, on limiting the parking to match the state Department of Conservation and Recreation’s parking protocols and following suit with Governor Baker’s mandates within Massachusetts. However, one year later a lot has changed for the better.
As of March 1, 2 million-plus doses have been received in Massachusetts, 1.76 million doses have been administered, and 547,000 residents of the state have received two injections and are now considered “fully vaccinated.” https://www.mass.gov/doc/daily-covid-19-vaccine-report-march-1-2021/download
Additionally, with a third vaccine now approved for distribution, millions more doses will be available in the coming months, prior to the busy summer season. Things are really looking up, and people have a pent-up need to get outside and get “back to the new normal.”
Therefore, if the proposal to ban or limit the parking in the HRA lot is based on social distancing and safety concerns, we have a few suggestions to consider, while keeping the lot open, keeping people safe, and being ready for business:
Increase mask rules in town. Masks must be worn in all public places, as well as inside all businesses unless seated (or in the water) until the governor eliminates the state of emergency. Approve some level of fines for violation, and collect them.
Ask the HRA to consider the winner of the parking summer contract to require and pay for a police detail at the lot during weekends and holidays, enforce the mask rules, and collect fines as necessary. Having a police detail here is no different from a hotel or restaurant hosting a special event and being required to have a detail at its expense.
Require the parking lot attendants to park the cars in alternate rows to help keep people from being too close together for extended periods, as opposed to filling the lot in consecutive row order.
Require the parking lot attendants to limit the parking price (suggestion of $25) per car because, if it gets too expensive, folks will still flood the neighborhoods nearby.
Put a clause in effect that if there is a capacity restriction on the DCR parking areas, the same percent reduction is automatically generated and enforced on the HRA lot.
Thank you for considering the local businesses, their ownership, and employees in Hull. There’s a very small window of time to take advantage of the tourism monies that come into this town for everyone’s benefit. We need it this year more than ever. Please don’t choose to limit the opportunities or put undue burdens in our residential neighborhoods.
Adrian Muir, President
Hull Nantasket Chamber of Commerce