UNH Law central in neighborhood parking discussion

  • A Concord fire truck demonstrates the tightness of Chapel Street by trying to squeeze past a parked car. The city’s parking committee is holding public forums on how to fix public safety issues on its narrow streets. Courtesy of the City of Concord

  • Residents of the White Park/UNH Law School area attend a public forum on narrow streets on Monday, October 22 2018. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 10/23/2018 3:56:56 PM

Tensions between White Park neighborhood residents and their academic neighbor were apparent during the city’s first forum on the game plan for its narrow streets.

Nearly all of the participants at a Monday night forum on neighborhood parking at the University of New Hampshire’s School of Law were nearby property owners and residents.

Nothing has been decided on how to handle the dozen or so street segments that are too small for plowing or emergency vehicles to pass through with on-street parking. But the city has suggested removing parking either on one side or both sides on several streets, which would eliminate about 146 parking spaces from the neighborhood.

While residents’ concerns were as varied as their addresses, the role UNH’s law school plays in the area’s parking situation – actual or perceived – dominated much of the discussion.

“It’s sort of scratching at the edges if we don’t talk about what is a major source of cars in our neighborhood as part of the solution,” said Joe Short, a resident of Essex Street.

The issue isn’t new. Short brought with him a letter UNH Law sent to residents in 2010 when the school was proposing on-street parking changes and its Center for Intellectual Property building.

The school proposed nine measures to alleviate crowding concerns, including creating a rideshare program and leveling out scheduling on peak class days to spread out parking demand during the week. UNH Law never followed up on those initiatives, Short said.

Another big concern in 2010 was the intersection of Washington and White streets, which residents identified as a dangerous spot because parked cars can obscure sight lines. Parking isn’t officially allowed that close to the intersection – but because there is little neighborhood enforcement, it continues, residents said.

And then there was discussion of White Park’s parking lot, which is supposed to be reserved for park goers only. But residents said they’ve seen people head to the law school from that lot.

UNH has tried to alleviate the problem, said school security supervisor John MacLennan. He said they tell students not to park at White Park and that the school opens up its lot during big White Park events, like the Black Ice hockey tourney or the summer bike race.

And he said the school wants to be part of the solution, saying an option where residents can park in UNH’s lots during the night could be explored.

“I don’t see this as an insurmountable obstacle,” he said.

But MacLennan also asked why White Park’s lot could not be available to residents during certain times of the school year, and pushed back on the idea that students cause the parking problems.

“At night there are one or two cars parked on the street. It’s not our students who are parked here at night,” he said. “Our students are parked on some of the side streets, because they live on the side streets. When someone sees a UNH parking permit on those streets, most times they live in that area.”

MacLennan estimated about 105 of the school’s 230 residential students live in the immediate area. Most of them probably leave their cars parked and walk to class, he said.

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