Residents who live near West Hartford Center are hoping a new set of parking restrictions will solve a problem that’s been growing in their neighborhood the last several years.
“I think they need to do something,” said Mark Seeger.
Seger has lived on Woodrow Street with his wife Pauline for five years. When they moved in, they say West Hartford Center, which is just up the street, was filled with mom and pop shops. But over the last two to three years they believe the face of the Center has changed and so has the clientele.
“I think because there’s more restaurants,” said Pauline, noting that their business hours are different from stores and often employ more people.
“The Center’s really become an entertainment destination, as well as Blue Back. So, there are people out late at night,” said Mary Fay, a Republican Town Council member.
With that have come complaints about beer bottles left in front yards, intoxicated individuals causing a nuisance late at night, and other issues affecting the neighborhood’s quality of life.
“The one thing we were concerned about is the safety issue, if a fire engine could get down the street if cars were parked on both sides of the street,” said Pauline.
The Town Council unanimously passed a new parking ordinance this week. Parking will now be restricted from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. on the residential sections of Ellsworth, Pelham Road, and LaSalle roads, along with Woodrow Street.
“This is a really good compromise for everyone involved,” said Liam Sweeney, a Democratic West Hartford Town Council member. “We also have to balance the folks that are going to the restaurants that allow for the home values around the Center to be worth what they are right now.”
However, it’s not just late-night revelers who take up the free street parking, it’s also some restaurant employees who say they can’t afford the Center’s steep parking rates.
“I think they’re going to be forced to park in these expensive parking lots. They’re going to have to use Uber and Lift, count on their friends for rides,” said Nina Rowe.
Rowe, a bartender at the Elbow Room, known for its rooftop dining, says on slow rainy days like Wednesday she can spend more on parking then she makes in tips.
“We’ve had a lot of people actually quit when I first started here because of the parking situation,” said Rowe. “ They would come in for a serving shift and they would end up spending more than they actually made in tips.”
Town Manager Matt Hart said employees who work in the town center can park at a discounted rate in one of the nearby garages as well. He’s encouraging business owners in West Hartford Center to make their employees aware of the program.
There’s also concern that this will just move the problem down to the next street and then those homeowners will have with the overflow of cars. Town leaders say because this is a pilot program, it can expanded or changed at any time.
“We’ll have to keep an eye on it and if we need to make other restrictions in other neighborhoods we’ll have to consider that,” said Fay.
Hart said the changes will take effect as soon as the new parking signs arrive within a month.