With the anticipated bump in traffic expected by the renovation at the Port Washington Public Library comes the long-standing question, where will everybody park?
The Port Washington Public Library's newest parking proposal was presented to Baxter Estates residents - the library's closest neighbors - at a Sept. 10 meeting of the village's Board of Trustees.
According to drawings obtained by the Port Washington News, the new plan creates one large parking lot by relocating Library Drive east, up Main Street. Though it would still connect Main to Locust Avenue, a residential street in the village, access to and from the drive would be controlled by new turning lanes, extensive street markings, and new signage on Main Street. The present Library Drive would be absorbed into the parking area, with secondary access lanes in the lot offering entry and exit onto Main at the current traffic light. No additional lights are planned.
The parking proposal garnered mixed reviews from Baxter's officials and residents at the board meeting.
"My position is it's unsafe how traffic comes out onto Main Street," said Mayor James Neville. "I want to add another light at Library Drive." Neville revealed he's had several meetings with Port Washington Public Library officials on the parking issue recently.
The plan doesn't pass muster with the village's engineer either, according to Neville.
"Walter Handelman, who knows a lot more about this than I do, doesn't like it," he said. "It's an awkward traffic dynamic."
"If our engineer says it's unsafe, we have to respect that," added Trustee Loretta DiBenedetto.
Several residents at the meeting supported the plan.
"I'm in favor of it, as is," said former Trustee Fred Nicholson. "The idea is to buffer traffic back out to Main Street, not back onto local streets."
One resident suggested the village approve the plan and review how it's working in the future. "How about we try it for six months?" he asked.
"How do we find out it's not working?" quizzed Mayor Neville. "Wait until someone gets killed there?"
Though it's located in Baxter Estates, the village has only limited sway over what the Port Washington Public Library does with its property. But Baxter's does have significant say in traffic issues because it controls the curb cuts necessary for access to any new parking areas. Any relocation of the village-owned Library Drive would also require approval of Baxter officials.
Trustee Jackie McGowan suggested the village seek professional advice to study the safety of the parking plan. "We should hire a traffic expert," she said.
"That could be quite expensive," cautioned another resident. "If it's not a comprehensive study that looks at all the intersections in the area, it's worthless."
"Considering all the development on the [Cow Neck] Peninsula, and the village's central location, that might be money well spent," replied McGowan.
Though they didn't act on the parking plan, the board agreed to hire the traffic expert.
"We're just lay people here," said Trustee Charles Comer, in support of the study. "Get the engineering study as soon as possible, then we'll go back to the library. They have to appreciate our position."
Neville, a former trustee elected mayor last year, vowed to keep working on an agreement with the library.
"I'm dealing with the issue now," he said. "I'm not hiding behind the skirt of another mayor as a trustee. We're working with the library in a spirit of cooperation."