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Critics of 3-hour parking limit expansion say proposal needs work


A proposal to make to make the three-hour parking restrictions in about 60 spots behind stores in downtown Riverhead run 24/7 instead of the current 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. needs some tweaking, according to two speakers at a public hearing before the Riverhead Town Board Tuesday.

The proposal applies to the spots that have green striping in the Peconic River parking lot, just south of the stores between Pera Bell Food Bar and Dark Horse restaurant.

The proposal also would expand the three-hour restriction to the parking lots east of McDermott Street.

The parking spaces in the south part of the lot, closest to the river, would continue to have no time limits.

The proposal came up because of a difficulty in finding parking spaces, now that two new apartment buildings have opened downtown. The apartments pay into the public parking district tax, and as such, are entitled to use the parking lots as parking for their residents.

Vail-Leavitt Music Hall president Bob Barta said the proposal could impact the historic, 220-seat theater on Peconic Avenue.

“Since shows typically run two-and-a-half to three hours, the proposed three hour universal limit would discourage audience members not only from adding a visit to one of the downtown restaurants, but from attending a show itself for fear of being ticketed,” he said.

But Mr. Barta said only certain days and shows would run longer than three hours, and that normal day-to-day operations of the Music Hall would be within the three hours.

That said, he added that the 60 parking spaces covered by the restriction are not enough to accommodate all the demand of downtown restaurants and businesses.

Laura Jens-Smith of Laurel, who made an unsuccessful run for Town Council in November, said the three-hour limit is a start toward addressing the parking problems downtown, but that the town needs a more long-term approach.

“I believe that all parking in the parking district should have time limitations and any overnight parking should be restricted to a certain area and require a permit,” she said.

The town also needs to maximize the 2,710 parking spaces it has downtown by having better signage to direct people to available parking.

A recent town study said that only 48 percent of the town’s parking spaces are utilized on weekdays and only 19 percent on weekends.

She also suggested having special parking spaces for compact cars and motorcycles, and added that she thinks a movie theater would not work downtown due to limited parking, and that the town should change its zoning to once again allow movie theaters on Route 58.