At their first meeting after voters at a petitioned special Town Meeting rejected winter restrictions on overnight parking in an amended traffic ordinance approved by the selectboard, board members considered new revisions to the ordinance. Administrative assistant Jessica DeFrancesco told board members the revisions in the proposed traffic ordinance included the changes in the rejected ordinance that weren’t connected to winter restrictions on overnight parking.
In late August, selectboard members approved a new ordinance that incorporated a winter ban on overnight parking in two municipal lots. According to board members, the change was at the request of the highway department and was intended to facilitate plowing after winter storms. Wilmington resident Jack Dolan, who said he was concerned that the parking ban would impact downtown residents and employees, circulated the petition that ultimately led to the public rejection of the changes.
Highway department members said they were still concerned about clearing snow from the lots. “Are we still going to have to fight with cars parked in the lots, or is someone going to tell them to get out after a snowstorm?” asked highway department member Doug Wheeler.
Selectboard member John Gannon told Wheeler that highway department supervisor Bill Hunt and chief of police Joe Szarejko have met with downtown landlords and other interested parties to broker an agreement on the parking issues. “The mood in the room was cooperative,” said Gannon. “Landlords wanted to be able to help in any way to preserve parking for their tenants and businesses were interested in participating.” Gannon said Szarejko was interested in building on the coalition of downtown landlords.
The board also took up a request from the Deerfield Valley Stump Jumpers to use sections of a number of town roads for snowmobile travel. Highway department members said they have seen a number of problems with snowmobile traffic on roads in Chimney Hill, and asked board members to consider policing the situation. Hunt said that the problem wasn’t with Chimney Hill residents or second-home owners. “The problem is with weekend rentals,” he said. “They raise holy old hell up there because they’re leaving Monday morning.”
Gannon asked about police snowmobile patrols, but learned that, although Wilmington police are involved in snowmobile patrols, the program is controlled by the state and focuses on safety and compliance inspections on VAST trails.
Highway department member Sheldon Brassor suggested the town work with Ken Spicer at the Chimney Hill Home Owners’ Association on the matter. “They’re supposed to have a lot more signage out,” Hunt added. “There was more signage, but it has faded over time.” Board members agreed to table the Stump Jumpers’ request until the issue could be resolved.
In other matters, the board approved a resolution requested by Meg Staloff, of Wilmington Works, for a five-year renewal of the town’s enrollment in the state’s Downtown Designation program. Staloff said the renewal includes a request to expand the area covered under the program to include Beaver Street, the former high school, and the site of the former town garage “so we can think about how we can best utilize those areas.”
Staloff said that representatives from the state program had been in town recently, and were pleased with the progress Wilmington has made under the program. “They were happy with how the town looked, and the work we’ve done,” she said. “People may not have seen it all the time, but we’ve been a very active downtown organization and we’ve gotten a lot of work done. We’ve done a lot of sidewalk work, on West Main Street, South Main Street, grants for East Main Street, and we’ve come a long way in terms of recovery. There are always challenges, and there’s more work to do.”
“They said we were one of the better downtown programs in the state,” Gannon noted.
“In some ways, we’re the poster child for how tax credits and other things can access the help we need to pull us through a very tough time,” Staloff agreed. “ We’ve made very good progress.”