Berlin On-Street Parking Standards Under Review After Garage Fire

BERLIN – Berlin Police Department officials are reviewing on-street parking practices in town to determine if changes need to be made.

Police Chief Arnold Downing said at this week’s town council meeting that in the wake of a garage fire on Washington Street, concerns had been voiced regarding accessibility on the town’s streets. He wants to ensure fire engines and other emergency vehicles are able to access all of the town’s streets when there is an emergency.

“We will be reviewing that street and other streets in regards to the accessibility of emergency vehicles and other vehicles,” Downing said. “One thing we do know is that not only emergency service vehicles but even the town vehicles actually have a rough time getting down those streets and doing their jobs at times with parking on both sides.”

According to Downing, a similar review was conducted in 2004. His staff will look over that one and look at any changes that have taken place in the interim. He said he would also be working with the town’s planning department.

“We have minimum standards of what the state says streets should be for parking,” Downing said. “We know how big the actual travel portion of the lane should be. We will just go ahead and review those, remeasure the roads and make recommendations about when developments are built that those standards are adhered to.”

Downing said that parking during Berlin’s special events had also become an issue. At one recent event, cars parked around the post office blocked mail trucks from getting out. He said signage would likely be needed to ensure accessibility wasn’t a problem in the future.

Mayor Gee Williams said he’d spoken to residents of Washington and Grace streets after the garage fire. He said he’d encouraged them to contact police if they saw cars parked in a way that hampered accessibility.

“If a neighborhood has parking restrictions and someone has violated restrictions, the chances of somebody in law enforcement coming by at that time are very slim but calling the police department is instant and everybody has a smart phone or cellphone nowadays,” he said.

He said he’d also advised them to approach the council with their concerns.

“I’m hoping when they’re ready they’re going to come before us and I think be very supportive of the recommendations that you make,” he told Downing.

Councilman Zackery Tyndall encouraged police to contact local schools in advance of the new school year to remind them to ask parents not to block surrounding roadways. He said the presence of an officer near Buckingham Elementary School at certain times last year had kept parking from becoming a problem.

“I don’t think we have to resort right to writing a ticket but just educating the consumer a little bit,” he said.

Williams said traffic cones or temporary signs could also prove useful at busy times.

“Unfortunately, nobody’s thinking about how their actions’ impact others,” he said. “It’s never been good, but it’s got to be near rock bottom. It’s the times we’re living in, so we take actions we’ve never had to do in the past when there was I guess more common courtesy.”

Ivy Wells, the town’s economic and community development director, acknowledged that there had been issues with parking during the town’s special events. She said she’d ordered additional wayfinding signs to direct visitors to parking at Stephen Decatur Park and had also ordered temporary “no parking” yard signs. She plans to put them along West Street the day before a special event. She plans to use them for the first time during the Fiddlers Convention.

“I think that would be a good place to do a trial run for that,” she said, adding that the signs could be used anywhere they were needed.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.