There’s a lot to love about the streetscape designs for Oak Bluffs. The $2.7 million project being designed by the Waterfield Design Group would add new sidewalks, trashcans, streetlights, and crosswalks to the downtown area of O.B.
The area being rethought is Circuit Ave. North, Circuit Ave. South, Kennebec Avenue, Healey Square, and a portion of Lake Avenue.
But there is one part of the plan that it seems has everyone’s focus — the idea of removing the diagonal parking on Circuit Ave. and replacing it with parallel parking. Nothing quite strikes fear in the hearts of most drivers like parallel parking. Can we squeeze into that spot? Will the driver behind me let me do it properly, which means going beyond the spot and backing into it? Can we see through the sweat dripping off our foreheads as we tie up summer traffic attempting to maneuver into this spot, on a hill no less?
During a recent public hearing, others expressed concern about the prospect of losing more parking spots in an area that could use more spaces, not fewer. The plan as drawn up would reduce the number of spaces on Circuit Ave. from Giordano’s to Healey Square from 28 spaces to 16. Seven more spaces would be lost in the area beyond Healey Square to make room for a raised crosswalk.
Needless to say, this isn’t going over well with some of the businesses on the street — particularly those like Mocha Mott’s, which is a quick-serve business geared toward someone being able to find a parking space nearby, run in for a coffee and nosh, and get back in the car to move along.
“Any swap of parking somewhere down on the harbor doesn’t do me, my business — selfishly — one bit of good. None, zero,” Tim Dobel, co-owner of Mocha Mott’s, said during last week’s public hearing on the designs.
We did an informal poll in our newsletter on Friday, and the results were overwhelmingly against the idea of going to parallel parking on Circuit Ave. Less than 10 percent of those who responded think it’s a good idea. The vast majority said “No, just no,” and the rest would like the town to hit the pause button and consider other options.
We liked the idea presented by Doug Abdelnour, owner of Nancy’s, who suggested surveying all business owners on Circuit Ave. to understand what they’d like to see in the streetscape plans.
It’s important to get and listen to the feedback that is given, and to make a thoughtful decision.
The designs have generated a lot of discussion — just take a peek at our comment section and social media — and we would encourage the select board to foster more of those conversations with stakeholders and Oak Bluffs citizens. There have been some good ideas suggested, including the idea of closing the street to vehicles completely and providing a shuttle service from a parking area away from the downtown. We’re not suggesting this is the solution, only that the town’s leaders have more of these discussions before making what could be considered an unparalleled decision.