Parking lot discussion leads to larger questions

Fri, 01/10/2020 - 8:00am

At the School Committee meeting on Dec. 17, the condition of the lot used for parking across the street from the Block Island School sparked a larger conversation about the future use of the lot, which has been eyed as a possible location for employee housing or community center.

School Committee member Annie Hall said that the vacant lot across from the school is being “regularly torn up” by vehicles parked there by students, parents and others. Superintendent Michael Convery said that Mike Shea, the town’s highways supervisor, told the school administration that the uneven lot needs more than gravel to make it suitable for parking.

The outgoing Town Manager saw a larger question in Hall’s observation. From the audience, Ed Roberge recommended that the school and the town work together to address parking concerns as part of a “comprehensive planning strategy” for the future use of the land.

“If the town ever does anything with that property,” he said, “where are all the cars going to go?”

“They will park on the street,” School Committee Chair William Padien replied.

Roberge suggested that the School Building Committee (which reports to the School Committee) look at a parking strategy in cooperation with the town government, such as the number of spaces for students and whether permits should be required.

“When and if something ever happens on the Faulkner property, there’s going to be a parking lot,” Roberge said.

The Faulkner property is one of four town-owned parcels at the intersection of High Street, Payne Road, and Pilot Hill Road included in a proposed “Community Services” zoning district. The other parcels are the Medical Center, the school and its athletic fields, and the Thomas property, where town employee housing is being planned and built.

Teacher Joanne Warfel noted that the staff parking area next to the school can become icy after plowing in winter and recommended that the town’s road crew apply sand to the lot after plowing.

Padien said he would ask Shea about the plowing, but the committee took no action on the parking concerns.