RIAC makes parking proposal

Thu, 11/04/2021 - 1:15pm

The Rhode Island Airport Corporation put in an appearance by Zoom at the New Shoreham Town Council meeting on Monday night to present its new parking plan. RIAC had sent a letter outlining the “Managed Parking Program” to the Town Council last week. The letter explained that the program would be modeled after the Block Island Ferry parking, in which there is no fee for parking, but the lot isn’t a free-for-all either. At the ferry, when passengers buy a ticket, they can receive a temporary parking permit good for 48 hours, which allows them to park in Interstate Navigation’s lot.

Although details were sketchy, RIAC confirmed that long-term parking will be restricted, with no parking over 14 days allowed.

FlightLevel Aviation, the airport’s fixed base operator, will manage the lot, and identify vehicles that are left there over 14 days. “After 15 days, at RIAC discretion, delinquent vehicles may be towed from airport property at owner’s expense.” Contractors who may be in need of longer-term parking will coordinate with FlightLevel to park in designated areas.
True to form, RIAC also sent the council a second letter that arrived at 4:30 on Monday afternoon. The second letter went into more detail, explaining that since RIAC had not been able to reach consensus with New England Airlines on paid parking, the managed parking plan would be adopted. RIAC is sending the parking proposal, along with a plan to expand the airport parking ramp, to the FAA for review. RIAC says it will seek to provide unpaid parking for airport users, including travelers and contractors using the airline's services.
First Warden Andre Boudreau asked the RIAC representatives for “a working definition of ‘airport user’.” Assistant Vice President of Media and Public Relations John Goodman confirmed that “airport user” referred to pilots, travelers, people picking up packages, customers at the diner or any other service provider in the airport. Goodman said the proposed changes were to address people who were not using the airport and were instead using the parking lot as storage, or for abandoned cars.
Council Member Martha Ball suggested: “If people wouldn’t leave their car at the airport for four months, we’d probably have a lot of this problem solved.”
The second letter also mentioned that RIAC has removed the two parcels of land from consideration for development, designated BID-1 and BID-3. These are the two areas that are home to the endangered American burying beetle and the endangered northern blazing star plant. RIAC will continue to seek proposals for the other two parcels of land, although Goodman informed the council that there are no proposals at this time.

Council Member Keith Stover thanked the RIAC representatives for the “positive outcome,” telling them: “I think you heard us.”
Second Warden Sven Risom also thanked RIAC for the “positive bullets in this note,” but also requested that RIAC refrain from “jamming a letter in at the last minute.” He suggested that RIAC communicate in advance with the town council, before the meeting. Risom did also say that he did not want his comments to “cloud the positive tone of the letter.”
Henry duPont also praised the letter, speaking during the public comment portion of the agenda item to call the letter “truly extraordinary.” He thanked the various politicians who have spoken to RIAC on behalf of the island, including State Representative Blake Filippi, State Senator Susan Sosnowski, and U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse.

David Lewis spoke up to address the elephant in the room. Lewis pointed out RIAC’s assumption “that we have someplace to tow abandoned vehicles to.”
By this point, technical difficulties had prevailed and the RIAC group had been dropped from the call. Ball assured Lewis that RIAC had been informed of this, with Boudreau and Risom both suggesting the council have a conversation about where to tow cars to. Lewis said, “We are setting ourselves up for failure if we don’t acknowledge that this elephant exists.”