, Newburyport, MA

December 13, 2013

At long last, an end to Ashland dispute


---- — NEWBURYPORT — A neighborhood dispute that has been simmering for almost a decade appears to have been put to rest this week by the City Council.

Residents on lower Ashland Street have been complaining about parked cars on that thoroughfare for many years and through numerous configurations of the council.

City Councilor Tom Jones recently said the dispute has been in the air for his entire tenure on the council, which is eight years.

Phil and Sons Auto Repair, whose business address is 345 Merrimac St., is a vehicle-service shop that also administers state-approved inspections.

Managers park cars along the curb on the western side of Ashland Street.

According to testimony before the council in recent months, some vehicles there are those waiting to be serviced. Others apparently belong to employees of the enterprise.

Rob Germinara, whose 2 Ashland St. property abuts Phil’s lot, has complained that these parked cars make it difficult for him to see and/or maneuver when he wants to leave his residence by car.

Nick Erokhin, of 3 Ashland St., expressed dissatisfaction with the congregation of cars in front of his house.

The inert vehicles detract from the charm of the leafy residential street, other residents said.

But an employee recently defended the enterprise by saying that their cars are off the street by the end of the business day. And supporters said that the vehicles don’t impede the flow of traffic.

In sessions that permit public comment, Clete Kijek, a resident of Walnut Street, questioned the veracity of Germinara’s complaints.

Councilors have heard the concerns of both sides before.

Jones, speaking at his last council meeting before leaving the body, urged that a solution be found that serves all parties.

Following discussion, the council voted to alter the parking zones on the street.

Both sides of lower Ashland Street will (mostly) become two-hour zones.

However, about 68 feet in front of Phil and Sons will remain all-day parking so that the company can use curbside parking to deal with waiting vehicles.

The new configuration, though, creates a no-parking space of about 6 feet below the Germinara driveway so that he can enter and exit his property with greater ease.

City officials say that the changes still require action.

The new parking measure requires the mayor’s signature. The Department of Public Services will have to put up signs, and residents will have to get (free) resident parking stickers so they can keep their cars on the street without ticketing.

In a separate matter Monday night, the council voted unanimously to rezone part of Storey Avenue from residential to business. Land at 81 and 83 Storey Ave., upon which two modest houses are sited, would fall under the new designation.

A year ago, a request by Tropic Star LLC developers of New Hampshire, requested such a zoning change, but it drew widespread opposition.

Numerous residents of subdivisions off Storey Avenue complained that a commercial development, such as a CVS Pharmacy that Tropic Star executives had in mind, would create traffic congestion and unsafe driving conditions.

But at the Monday meeting, no executives of any company advocated for the change and no opposition was heard.

The city’s Planning and Development Department supported the new zoning configuration.

The second reading of the ordinance to rezone the area was passed, and thus the rezoning will become law, city officials say.

Municipal leaders here say that no formal action has been taken by Tropic Star or any other developer that would pave the way for a CVS or any other commercial venue on Storey Avenue.