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May 26, 2020
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Traffic issues created by parking at the confluence of Commerce and Grove streets may be reduced by new signage and parking rules. Photo by Eric O’Connell/Harbor News

Traffic issues created by parking at the confluence of Commerce and Grove streets may be reduced by new signage and parking rules. (Photo by Eric O’Connell/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)

Short-Term Fixes Set for Clinton Marine District Congestion

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At a Board of Police Commissioners (BOPC) meeting on July 8, the board voted to enact several new measures to combat congestion in the marine district. While the moves will help in the short-term, the commission will still mull long-term solutions.

At issue is the confluence of Commerce and Grove streets. Both are two-way streets that form a triangle near the Town Marina. The streets traverse areas that are residential neighborhoods before ending at the triangle area, which is where two popular dining destinations are located: Lobster Landing and Shanks.

Due to the popularity of the two restaurants, there can be substantial traffic in the area. Consultant planner John Guszkowski told the Harbor News earlier in 2019 that the area has “a relatively poorly controlled parking and circulation plan.”

Some residents who live in the area have expressed concern over safety and parking issues. When the parking spots are full near the food service areas, some visitors park on the side of the roads, which can make navigating the streets difficult and potentially unsafe, and has resulted in damage to the yards of some houses.

As a result, the BPOC voted to add more no parking signs to Commerce Street, Shell Road, and West Grove Street. Two stop signs will be placed at the intersection of Riverside Drive and Grove Street. Additional parallel parking spots will be added to Grove Street opposite the triangle area, as well as signs directing people to additional public parking at the town dock. The southernmost boat trailer parking lot will be removed to improve the line of sight for those exiting the town dock parking lot.

These moves follow BPOC voting last month to lower the speed limit to 25 miles per hour in the area. Robert Ley, one of the residents who has been closely following the matter, was pleased with the suggested changes.

“This is a well-reasoned and deliberate plan. [Police] Chief [Vincent] DeMaio and [BOPC] Chairman [Peter] Niles have been outstanding in listening to neighborhood concerns and suggestions, and providing leadership on this. The plan balances the need for commercial growth in the Marina District with preserving the character of our neighborhood. I think neighborhood residents are very happy with it,” said Ley.

Ley also had ideas for a potential long-term fix.

“Clearly, long-term, we need additional sidewalks in the area to most safely unify the areas of commercial interest, but that’s a considerable expense that would need to be addressed in the town budget,” said Ley. “The new trolley holds potential to alleviate congestion, but we need to do a better job marketing it so that visitors will utilize it.”

The town recently unveiled a new, free-to-ride trolley service on weekends through Sunday, Sept. 1. The trolley makes stops at several key areas around town, including the marina district. The trolley runs from 5 to 9 p.m. on Fridays, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays.

A Combined Effort

Any long-term solution will require input from others outside the BPOC. A regulations subcommittee of the Planning & Zoning Commission has been convened to study stationary vendors and possibly update the written regulations that govern them. Currently Shanks is the only stationary vendor in Clinton. Clinton zoning regulations define a stationary vendor as “A vendor which operates a truck or trailer or other portable structure but is intended to stay in one location.” Shanks is a converted lobster boat that serves food across from Lobster Landing.

As part of a periodic review of its own regulations, the PZC is interested in possibly revising the regulations as they relate to stationary vendors. Possible updates to the plan may call for the inclusion of a map of what the property will look like, an expanded list of definitions, and a mandatory number of parking spots that would correlate to the number of seats.

The subcommittee has been seeking input from members of the public as well as the business owners on their ideas for what should or shouldn’t be included in the regulations. The regulations committee will take its recommendations to the entire PZC. Once the PZC approves of the potential updates, a formal application by the PZC would will be developed, and then the issue would come before the public at a public hearing, likely sometime in the early fall.

Regulations committee members Alan Kravitz and Gary Bousquet have said that the regulations would need to balance protection of residential areas with a need to encourage commerce in town.

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