Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Foxboro Parking Solution Lacks Common Sense

This column originally appeared in the Sun Chronicle on August 28, 2012.

By Bill Gouveia

If you are going to propose a law and get it adopted, common sense says you should have a plan to enforce it.  But when it comes to the newly-instituted Foxboro parking bylaw, common sense is in very short supply.

The law bans residents from parking cars on their private property during Gillette Stadium events, which means it is almost exclusively aimed at homeowners in the North Street area near Patriot Place.  The police chief and the building inspector pushed and supported the bylaw along with selectmen.  They said the parking of cars in the highly residential neighborhood posed a safety threat to pedestrians, motorists, and neighbors and impeded the safe flow of traffic.

But in their haste to implement this misguided policy, they failed to properly plan just how they would make it work.  They can go around and look for cars parked in driveways and on lawns, and even hand out $100 fines to those they believe in violation.  But they have yet to come up with a sensible answer or a workable plan for how people can hold simple family gatherings without worrying about police possibly towing Grandma’s car during dinner.

Of course, officials have no intention of actually doing such a thing to Grandma.  But how are they planning to apply this law fairly?  There is no doubt some North Street area residents abused their homeowner rights and created a nuisance by jamming their property with game-day parkers.  But the overwhelming majority either parked no cars, parked friends and relatives, or parked a few people safely on their land for a fee.  In many cases, they have been parking the same acquaintances for decades.

Did this new bylaw strip homeowners of their right to hold family gatherings when they involve more than three cars?  Do you now have to get permission for Grandma to visit?  Will she need a permit or a placard to guarantee she is not a scofflaw?  Many of the games are held on or around holidays.  Must residents now give up their right to celebrate the holidays at home?

Here’s an idea.  How about cracking down on the people who actually create a parking or traffic hazard, and leaving the ones who don’t alone?  If this is really a safety issue, why must the people who are not creating safety problems be stopped from parking cars? 

The current bylaw tries to solve the problem around the stadium in a heavy-handed and uneven manner.  It is like trying to kill flies with dynamite.  It makes little sense, creates a lot of peripheral damage, and is simply unfair and discriminatory.

Think about it for a minute.  The town and the Patriots agree to funnel a lot of traffic down North Street so they can have a private entrance to the expensive club seat parking lot for VIPs.  They create traffic the residents must endure.  Then when the residents try and use their property to park the cars of friends and relatives, or make a couple of bucks, the town blames them for creating traffic problems.

The homeowners are not causing the vast majority of the issues.  The traffic itself is to blame.  If town officials are truly worried about the safe flow of traffic in the residential neighborhood, then they should reduce that traffic – not further punish or inconvenience the people who just happen to live along the route.  Those neighbors are not creating traffic problems, but rather are the victims of them.

Safety is always first.  No one should be hurt just so residents can make a few extra bucks.  Town officials have to create a safe situation for everyone.  But frankly – this ain’t how to do it.

They rushed this law without thinking it through.  They changed the implementation date of it several times in a way that was unfair and unreasonable.  They did not clearly present the impact of it at Town Meeting.  They created a committee to discuss the law with area residents after it was passed rather than before.  They did not think this through.

Foxboro voters should repeal this law at the next Town Meeting and tell officials to come up with a complete plan and resubmit.  Hopefully, this time they will get it right.

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and can be emailed at aninsidelook@aol.com and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

No comments: