New Canaan likely won’t be able to negotiate a way around losing several parking spaces on Main Street downtown, as per a state statute that prohibits spots near crosswalks, officials said this week.
After speaking with Connecticut Department of Transportation officials, state Rep. Tom O’Dea (R-125th) said that “obtaining waiver is probably not likely.”
O’Dea told members of the Police Commission during their regular meeting Wednesday that he intends to schedule a meeting with the DOT that includes New Canaan’s delegation to the General Assembly.
“It is a statute, or regulation, that we have to try to get an exemption from,” O’Dea said during the meeting, held at the New Canaan Police Department.
“What we are going to try and bring up is what other possible things we can do to address their safety concerns with having crosswalk and parking spots where they are currently, whether that be some sort of lighting or some sort of reflective things, but I would say I’m not optimistic I will be able to change their position.”
After a town resident complained to the DOT regarding New Canaan’s failure to observe a 1949 state law that prohibits parking within 25 feet of a marked crosswalk at an intersection, state officials pushed for immediately compliance. (The stretch of Main Street from Cherry to Locust Avenue doubles in parts as state Routes 106 and 124.) The town hired a Fairfield-based transportation consultant to study the area, and that firm returned last month with a new parking configuration that would limit the loss of parking to six net spaces. The Commission decided to hold off a vote on that plan, pending O’Dea’s input.
O’Dea said the response from the DOT regarding its insistence that New Canaan comply with the law where perhaps other municipalities are not is, “Well, we have not received complaint or we are not aware of them, and they don’t have the staff to go inspect this situation.”
“So that is kind of where we are,” he said.
O’Dea said he would try to meet with DOT officials prior to the Commission’s Dec. 18 meeting.
State officials when contacted by NewCanaanite.com said that because the complaint regarding Main Street parking spaces came in via phone, they’re unable to identify or confirm the identity of the individual who lodged it.
It’s not the first time a formal complaint has resulted in a loss of parking spaces downtown.
Last summer, a town resident put New Canaan on formal notice about its noncompliance with the same statute, prompting the Police Commission to reconfigure parking on Elm Street such that 13 spaces were lost. The town subsequently was prompted to re-designate 12 parking spaces for disabled motorists due to an anonymous ADA-related complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Justice.
During its meeting, the Commission did vote 3-0 to restore six of the lost spaces on Elm Street. Local attorney Richard Stewart advised the town that the crosswalk in front of The Playhouse is exempt from the law because it doesn’t sit at an “intersection” as defined under state statute. The town attorney agreed with that opinion, Commission Chair Sperry DeCew said, though a traffic consultant advised against restoring the parking there due to pedestrian traffic. Nevertheless, DeCew and Commissioners Paul Foley and Jim McLaughlin voted unanimously to request that the public works director prepare sketches to re-stripe or un-stripe the area so that motorists may park up against the mid-block crosswalk again.
“I think it was an unfortunate way it came about,” McLaughlin said of the Elm Street parking loss. “We have been told now the statute does not apply. We never had a safety issue that I have heard about from the police.”
Meanwhile, it isn’t clear how or when state officials will force New Canaan to reconfigure its Main Street parking.
DeCew said that if the state moves to pressure the town prior to O’Dea’s meeting with the DOT, town officials should say they’re still studying the issue.