On Friday morning the Board of Selectmen again took up the issue of student parking on Hillside Road.
The question arose after the interim director of parking services, Greenwich Police Captain Mark Kordick, had asked the selectmen to codify the existing scenario.
When no one could say for certain whether control of the Hillside Road had been transferred to the Board of Education, as many have suggested, Town attorney Wayne Fox said said his office conducted research.
Mr. Fox said the search for a record of that decision was unsuccessful, and that Board of Selectmen minutes for the years 1967 to 1976 are missing. (The high school on Hillside Road opened on 1970).
“We cannot come to a definitive conclusion that control of the street was given to the Board of Education,” Mr. Fox said. “We have to assume it still falls under the purview of the Board of Selectmen.”
With that established, First Selectman Tesei said the board had received multiple communications, not only on the the issues related to parking, but on overall campus usage.
Certainly, Hillside residents have become increasingly vocal about a host of issues since the November 2017 meeting with Superintendent Gildea during which consultants talked about “what if” scenarios for upgrading lighting and fields at GHS. Residents said that for decades, GHS had reneged on promises, littered the street, left lights on at night, parked in their driveways, and so on.
In the past weeks, multiple letters to the editor have been published, neighbors saying there would be no double parking if there were no student parking on Hillside, and there would be no double parking if parents followed the agreed to procedure to queue behind the school at pick up and drop off.
Students, who started a petition to save Hillside parking, and the GHS headmaster have argued that elimination of student parking on Hillside would not lessen congestion.
In any event, there is an agreement about pick up and drop off on paper.
In 2010, the MISA P&Z Final Approval, issued when Diane Fox was the town planner, sets conditions that there will be no double parking on Hillside Road.
“What’s been communicated to us repeatedly is non adherence to existing regulations in terms of traffic flow,” Tesei said on Friday morning. “It’s been shown in photographs, including students exiting buses and crossing two lanes of traffic, and parents dropping off students in the idle of the street.”
Tesei said he’d like Greenwich Police to take a more aggressive approach to enforce rules and prevent double parking in the short term.
Beyond that, Tesei said he’d like to form a working group to include either himself or another selectman, two or three Hillside neighbors, Greenwich Police, Dept of Public Works, school administration, Headmaster Dr. Winters, Director of Safety & Security Thomas Bobkowski and perhaps members of the GHS PTA.
Tesei said the working committee could “see if there could be improved flow in terms of pick up and drop off on campus. And then come back to have it vetted for next fall.”
And still Captain Kordick urged the Selectmen to go ahead and codify student parking on Hillside Road, noting that it would be possible to change it in the future.
“As much as I support that, it’s not going to be satisfactory to the folks that brought it to our attention,” Tesei said.
“You can say the BOE is not in compliance with Planning & Zoning, because they’re not enforcing the drop off and pick up in the back lot,” Selectman Toner said, going on to suggest signage about rules be posted on the west side of the street.
Kordick said there already is signage on the east side of the street. “We do rigorously enforce that,” Kordick said, to a chorus of laughs from the dozen Hillside Road neighbors.
“How about making them obey what they agreed to do at the time that this was enacted,” Selectman Litvack asked. “That pick up and drop off be moved to the rear of the building. You have to make them do that and have the police come in.”
“If every sign we put up instantly controlled driver behavior, we’d never had to ask the police to enforce anything,” said Melissa Evans of Traffic Operations Coordinator for DPW. Evans said it would be “a huge cost” to the BOE to have a police officer directing traffic.
Greenwich Police Traffic Sergeant Patrick Smyth said that the first month of school police started by issuing warnings to parents, followed by more rigorous enforcement with tickets.
“People start obeying the rules when they see us out there,” Smyth said. “We can’t be at the high school every day, and when we’re not there they start doing what’s quickest and most convenient.”
“What we’re asking for is a more aggressive police enforcement to effectuate behavior,” Tesei said. “The headmaster has tried to enforce it but it requires a re do. It hasn’t met expectations. But it’s not being aggressively implemented.”
Tesei pointed out that private schools contract with police privately for for traffic direction. “This shouldn’t be treated any differently,” he said. “That’s where the school system has to convey to the BOE and Dr. Winters and the Superintendent, to effectuate what P&Z approved that they hire off duty officers to do traffic control and write tickets.”
It was confirmed that special officers can write tickets.
As for the double parking, Mr. Litvack said he’d been embroiled in debate with Captain Kordick.
“I went to GHS at discharge time, there are 20 50 100 cars double parked there – some for a half hour, some for ten minutes. They just sit there double parked, taking up half the road. The police officer doesn’t do anything about it,” Selectman Litvack said. “Captain Kordick told me that is appropriate and nothing can be done. I don’t believe it. You’ve taken half the street. They’re not just stopped; they’re parked there. Can’t we deal with that?”
Sergeant Smythe said the officer is only on Hillside Road to direct the buses out of the bus loop and cannot leave his station at the driveway.
Kordick argued there is no clear definition of double parking with regard to a standing vehicle.
“Ideally everyone would pull to the back of the high school,” Kordick said. “We don’t live in that ideal world.”
Kordick went on to say that if parents weren’t allowed to double park, they would not queue behind the school, but rather drive around the block.
Hillside Road resident Elizabeth Dempsey had a chance to speak on behalf of the dozen neighbors who attended the meeting.
She said that for 18 years she has asked police politely to enforce the rule against double parking. “And each time they say, ‘We are only here to let the buses go.'”
Ms. Dempsey said the situation is a is unsafe and the town will be liable. “This is about people – 30-50 people filing their nails and on their cell phones idling the cars, saying ‘Sorry, I’m just here to pick up my kids,” she said. “Someone should be allowed to traverse Hillside without playing chicken and driving into the northbound lane.”
Furthermore, Ms. Dempsey said that since the roadway re-striping in January, she cannot come out of her driveway without fully coming into oncoming traffic. “It is galling to be told that this extra lane was to put in for traffic and quick dismissal,” she said.
Ms. Dempsey and her neighbor Jeff Miller said they have counted empty spots in the parking lots numbering up to 50 to 60.
“No one wants to park in the lots. They want to park in the street,” Mr. Miller said.
“It’s not fair to put us with a fourth lane unable to make a turn because a teenager doesn’t want to use the parking lot,” Ms. Dempsey said.”I have righs. I am a citizen. Who is standing up for me?”
“Yesterday I counted 42 double parked cars before they started to move,” Mr. Miller said. “There are spaces at the curb people won’t take because they can’t get out.”
While the selectmen did not vote to codify student parking, and asked the working committee be formed, they did vote on an ordinance to put up two-hour parking signs on Hillside where currently signs “Visitor.”