Berlin Council Looks Past Sidewalk Concerns

BERLIN — A Berlin couple is vowing to start a petition to change the town’s code regarding sidewalks to remedy what they view as a “serious pedestrian safety problem” along William Street.

After hearing their concerns Tuesday, the Berlin Mayor and Council was not willing to take any action with Mayor Gee Williams telling the couple that he did not feel a majority of people in town shared their view. The council did agree to look further into the issue in the future and promised to take any petition the couple submits seriously.

Resident Tracy Albrecht spoke at Tuesday’s Mayor and Council meeting on the parking situation near Venable Cleaners on William Street. Currently, Albrecht said that cars will often park on the slopped sidewalk immediately in front of Venable when picking up or dropping off dry cleaning.

“The fact of the matter is it’s a sidewalk and there’s no place on the sidewalk to go when people pull up there in cars,” she said. “I’ve seen children jump up on the brick wall to get out of the way or go out on the highway.”

According to Tracy Albrecht, people are forced to walk around the cars to continue on the sidewalk, putting them at risk. Children especially are in danger, she asserted.

“It’s common sense. You have women and children and babies. You’re only asking for an accident to happen,” she said.

Tracy’s husband, David Albrecht, claimed that he personally has been run off of the road numerous times because of the blockages created by people doing curbside dry cleaning pickup or deposit.

“The traffic is nothing like it used to be. People don’t have any respect for anybody,” he said.

The Albrechts asked that the town change its code to make it illegal to park a car in a manner that would block the sidewalk in any way.

“They have to walk out into the highway, around the cars, to continue on the sidewalks. Now that has to be a situation that needs to be seriously addressed,” said Tracy Albrecht. “I don’t want to wait for one child to be killed before people look at it and say, ‘wow we have a problem.’ It’s a problem now.”

Mayor Gee Williams told the Albrechts he respected their concerns but said that he didn’t share their fears. More importantly, he doesn’t feel that a large number of people in town consider the parking situation around Venable to be a problem.

“We’ve never had anybody, and I’ve been to most of the meetings for about 40 years, complain about this,” he said.

Part of the reason, according to Tracy Albrecht, is that some people don’t believe the council will listen to their concerns.

“The people that I’d asked to come up here have said they’ve come in front of the town council for other things and they get totally blown off and it’s not worth it,” she said.

Williams disagreed and said the group always tries to be polite and reasonable whenever they are approached. He pointed out that there is no history of accidents at the location near Venable and while the Albrechts claimed that the spot violated American Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, Williams assured them that the State Highway Administration has been contacted multiple times and has confirmed that there is nothing illegal.

The mayor said that the parking situation on William Street has been unchanged for half a century with no problems. The history of the location didn’t mollify the Albrechts.

“Fifty years ago, we didn’t have the traffic that we have in town today,” said Tracy Albrecht. “We didn’t have the bus route that’s there now; we didn’t have the horse and carriage route that’s there now.”

Her husband agreed, saying, “I don’t care if it’s a drop-off point for the cleaners that have been there for 50 years.” He reiterated that he believed it to be illegal to park a car in a manner that would block any part of the sidewalk.

According to Berlin Police Department Chief Arnold Downing, most drivers don’t cause any kind of disruption when using Venable. Some, however, might cut corners and park illegally or otherwise drive dangerously for whatever reason. But those are the exceptions to the rule, he told the Albrechts whenever they or their neighbors observe something like that they should report it immediately.

“It’s the same people every week, every day; we can’t legislate common sense,” he said.

Councilwoman Lisa Hall added that people should take a picture whenever they see illegal or dangerous driving so that Downing and his department have evidence.

“Everyone has got cell phones now. If you see people doing crazy things pop their picture. He needs documentation,” said Hall.

They did try to keep an eye on the neighborhood, said Tracy Albrecht, but it shouldn’t be up to residents or the police to fix what she saw as a town problem.

“A sidewalk issue should not be the issue of the police department to babysit if there’s a town ordinance saying that there’s no parking there,” she said.

After all of the comments, Williams stuck to his statement that most people in town do not have a problem with allowing parking on the sidewalk in front of the drycleaners. Calling it a “solution looking for a problem,” the mayor advised the Albrechts to start a petition if they truly believe residents share their concern.

Tracy Albrecht said that she was willing to do so but asked if it really had to go that far before the town changed the code.

“Yes because you’re basically talking about putting a business out of business,” he said.

After the Albrechts left, Councilman Dean Burrell asked that the council take the couple’s concerns to heart and look into the situation individually. He also suggested that they think about Tracy Albrecht’s statement that residents have felt stonewalled by town government before and make sure to be as transparent and accessible as possible moving forward.

6 thoughts on “Berlin Council Looks Past Sidewalk Concerns

  1. Sidewalks are made for people to walk on, not for cars to park on. Part of the charm of Berlin is being able to walk into town to shop and dine. I find it dangerous when I have to walk in the street in order to accommodate the car that is parked in front on the cleaners. Venables has a parking lot right next to their store. They’re business will not be hurt if customers have to use the lot and not the sidewalk. Just because something has been done for 40 years does not make it right.

  2. It is about time this was brought to the town’s attention. Watching people pull up, not all the way off the street and cause hazards to both people walking & driving needs to be stopped. The town is redoing all the sidewalks to comply with handicapped regulations, so I guess what the Mayor is saying that section does not fall under the handicapped rules. The Mayor’s comment he isn’t going to put a business out of business by changing the law is the most idiotic comment I have ever heard an official make! Besides, if making people park on the side of his building in the parking lot is going to put him out of business, he has a lot more problem than parking. Perhaps the owner of the cleaners should voluntarily stop people from parking there by blocking it, showing he is also concerned about the safety of the people he is serving and who live in Berlin. If something is wrong but allowed for 40 years, perhaps it is time to make it right.

  3. Town Ordinance Sec.28-73 Sidewalk Obstructions…It shall be unlawful except with the permission of Mayor & Council for the owner or occupant of any premises with the corporate limits of the town to place, erect or store, OR TO CAUSE OR PERMIT TO BE PLACED,erected or stored,ON THE SIDEWALK ABUTTING HIS PREMISES any articles, CHATTELS or merchandise of any type, except that this article shall not apply to placing or maintaining on said portion of the sidewalk any scales or weighing device,stands for the use in selling newspapers,resting benches or stone flower pots. This Ordinance is already in place. No other merchants in the Town of Berlin have ‘curbside pickup or parking’ within the Town of Berlin…and thier business does not suffer for not having same. So much time and energy has been placed in ‘nitpicking’ the issue and use of sidewalk signs for the business owners while a ‘blindeye’ is given to REAL saftey issues involving the sidewalks…why is the saftey of pedestrians in 1 area of town NOT as important as the other? The needs of the residents of this ‘growing’ community have to know that the saftey of the pedestrians comes first not last and that all issues of safety involving the community are given merit & laws complied with..not just on Main Street.

  4. I live out of state, and EVERY time I have visited I have seen people parked on the sidewalk. I have seen women push their strollers into the street, and children ride their bikes into traffic. Not only do they park on the sidewalk, they block part of the road as well, so cars must swerve into oncoming traffic. How the Mayor could feel that this is not a safety issue is beyond me. They have parking on BOTH sides of their building. It is only a matter of a few feet. Parking in front of the building is purely laziness and disrespect for others. They should be embarrassed.

  5. Being that I live across the street from the cleaners and have since 2003 there is an issue. There are plenty of times that I go to pull out of the driveway, walk on that side of the side walk, go to cross the street and almost get creamed by a car/truck/suv/van trying to pull on or off the SIDEWALK to get to Venables. It is ridiculous. And the fact that some people pull up there and still block half the road causing other cars to swerve and go into the on coming traffic, almost cause accidents, or people park on our FRONT LAWN is ridiculous. Guess this is what happens when you live in a town full of “good ol’ boys”. There is an issue here, and it needs to be taken care of. There is no reason to park on a SIDEWALK meant for pedestrians……HELLOOOOOOOOO I mean what other reason do you need besides that? IT’S A SIDEWALK NOT A SIDEDRIVE…..I constantly see people with strollers, wagons, and just walking down the street with their kids and almost get creamed by a car because they need to pick up their dry cleaning, park on the SIDEWALK instead of Venables PARKING LOT…..Get with it you lazy people, god forbid you have to walk a couple extra feet to pick up your damn clothes. Ridiculous. People speed down William Street as is, we don’t need morons trying to park on the sidewalk almost causing accidents.

  6. The sad truth about all of this is the fact that, it has already been in the town code since 1964 and NEVER enforced. And either the mayor has no idea its there, or just pushing it off. Im not sure but, since it is already a violation of town code and hasnt been enforced for all these years, maybe its time, to protect pedestrians, to actually start doing it. I think tha the sidewalk needs to be torn up and a full 6 inch curb needs to replace it, that way, people wont be able to park on the sidewalk.

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