One fact everyone agreed on during Thursday’s Selectmen meeting to consider an ordinance limiting street parking on Perna Lane in Riverside: The street is a popular cut through for drivers from points north, and even Stamford, coming and going from exit 5 and Riverside Commons.
At the meeting, Greenwich Police Deputy Chief Chief Kraig Gray, who is Greenwich’s director of Parking Services, presented the ordinance which he said was in response to residents’ complaints.
Residents received notice of the study and meeting in a letter referring to “ongoing and recurring complaints.”
Chief Gray explained the recommendation came from the DPW Engineering Division who conducted traffic counts and looked at speeding, sight line issues – particularly the 90° bend in the roadway – and the existing way residents and their guests park along the street.
About a dozen highly motivated Perna Lane residents turned out to oppose the parking restrictions.
They said many of their homes were built in the 50s with driveways wide enough for just one car and a single-car garage, and rather than back out into traffic to juggle cars coming and going from their homes, they relied on on-street parking.
More than one longtime resident recalled that Perna Lane was originally a dead end dirt road, and more than one resident at the more congested end of the street suggested the solution was to return the road to its dead end status rather than lose their parking.
Standards are spelled out in the Greenwich Roadway Design Manual. For example, the recommended minimum roadway width with one parking lane is 28 feet. Apart from the intersections, the roadway varies in width from 23 feet to 29’-6” – and there are no sidewalks.
Perna Lane does not meet the requirement for parking on either side of the road.
Currently, with no parking restrictions, there are cars parked along both sides of the street.
Longtime resident Marilyn Bravo said there had not been an accident on Perna since 1953, when the last traffic ordinance was adopted, and that removing parking would unfairly punish residents.
“Since then, we don’t have any accidents – even if one person complains about it. One person complains about it all the time,” Bravo said. “I want to know who is pushing for this agenda. I am talking about a code of ethics in Greenwich. This is fishy.”
Marilyn Corzo shared a visual showing a map with Riverside Commons, Neil Lane and adjacent roadways to the north.
She said drivers should take Sound Beach Ave Extension and Sheephill, which have better sight lines and straighter roads than Wescott and Perna.
“Stop targeting Perna Lane when you have these larger arterial roads,” she said. “Why Perna Lane? It’s such a small street. Why are we expending so much time and resources and our tax payer money?”
“Parking is not the issue. It’s the speed and manner in which our road is being used as a cut through access.”
She suggested that parked cars served as a traffic calming measure.
“Parked cars act as friction points and buffers to slow speeding drivers who use our street as a race track to cut through to get to I95 or back country,” Corzo said.
“For people to park multiple cars in the driveway, and to have to back out to let cars in and out, that can cause an accident in itself. It’s just so much cleaner to just park on the street.”
Further, Corzo asked where visiting family and guests would park if street parking were prohibited.
She suggested making the street a dead end.
“If you take away our parking – where are we going to park?” asked Audra Donovan.
Donovan said Riverside Commons has changed and in the past several years and residents take frequent trips to Jersey Mikes, Chipotle, Starbucks and Pomodoro.
“We agree there is a problem. The complaint for parking is only one person,” she said. “The complaint for speed is every single resident on that street.”
Paul Fix estimated there were 40 young children living on Wescott and Perna. He said his mailbox had been hit by a speeding car during the night, which police determined when they spotted a side view mirror nearby.
“That was the day I started parking on the street. If you hit my van, fine. I’d rather you hit my van than a kid,” Fix said. “This is not a parking problem. This is a speed problem.”
Jack Campisi said his father carved out a parking space far enough from the roadway that a car does not stick out into the roadway. “We really need that,” he said.
Kathleen Willsey said hers was one of the very first houses built on the street.
“It was a dirt road and a dead end when we moved there,” Willsey said. “We need the parking. We also carved out spaces in front of our house.”
Willsey said her elderly mother has visiting caregivers who need to park.
Jena Zazula said she has eight children who walk to school and McDonald’s. She also said she’d like to see the road turned into a dead end.
“They dodge in between the parked cars. They walk on people’s lawns. It’s kind of accepted because there is nowhere else for them to walk,” Zazula said. “It’s really not safe.”
Thursday’s presentation was a first read for the Selectmen and, no matter what their decision, the ripple effects are potentially significant.
Whatever the Selectmen decide could set a precedent when the next street comes under the microscope.
“Who will the town target next?” Ms Corzo asked. “Almost every surrounding road has street parking such as Perna Lane. All streets then need to be re-evaluated should this Perna Lane ordinance pass.”
She said streets in Havemeyer Park, including Amherst, were similar.
“If this passes, then those streets should be audited.”
One person who argued not all the on street parking was necessary was Nancy Fantin, who lives on the less congested end of Perna.
Fantin, who is legally blind, said she lives close to the corner of Wescott, where there was no need for on street parking since the homes on that small stretch of Perna have bigger driveways and plenty of off street parking.
“There’s no need,” Fantin said. “There’s never been a need for parking on my end. I’m pretty much speaking for the safety of myself.”
She said several of her immediate neighbors were in agreement but unable to attend the meeting.
“They’re not going to want parking on their lawn or on the street,” she said, adding that, as is, cars don’t obey the stop sign at Wescott.
“They’ll be parked on the roadway and actually blocking that lane,” she said referring to how the ordinance would allow street parking on her stretch of Perna.
Fantin said she she was completely blind at night and uses a stick hug the lawn and curb as she navigates on foot to find her way to her driveway.
“I’m accustom to using that stretch. If you allow parking on that stretch…it’ll create a huge issue where instead of me hugging the lawn, the curb, to get to my driveway,” she added. “I’m going to have these obstacles of a bunch of cars…”
“I’m going to be in the middle of the road, basically,” she continued. “It’s a safety concern.”
Longtime Perna Lane resident Bob Mazza emphasized the safety of neighborhood children, noting they are not eligible for school buses.
Still, he said the status quo was not acceptable.
“There’s something that needs to be changed here for the safety of our children and all of us.”
First Selectman Camillo explained the feedback would be taken into consideration and the board would come to a decision after a second read in two weeks.
“We’ve heard all the concerns and certainly there is an issue there,” Camillo said. “We’ll have to come up with something that will slow the cars down. When I grew up there were a lot of kids on that road, and we were out in the street there back in the 70s.”
Camillo said he had serious concerns about the ordinance setting a precedent. “Every road, including my own, we would have an issue where you couldn’t have anybody over to your house. That would be a little bit of a discriminatory policy to have, and for neighbors who don’t a lot of land for off street parking.”
He said Ms Corzo’s map showed that there was enough room for a car to pass a car parked on the side of the road.
“This could set a precedent where it wouldn’t stop on Perna Lane,” he noted. “The person who has raised these issues – we could visit some other things see if we can slow down traffic a little bit in other ways without taking way the right to park on the road.”