HARVARD -- The Planning Board met this week to discuss the future of the auditorium planned as part of Town Hall renovations.
The plan is to create an auditorium on the second floor that will seat at least 250 people. The issue of where these 250 people will park became the hottest topic of the evening.
The town center currently has approximately 33 parking spaces. Calvin Goldsmith, Vice President of GPR Civil Engineering, Land Planning and Land Surveying, said that a total of 67 parking spaces are needed to accommodate the Town Hall expansion. Goldsmith proposed that at least 32 more parking spaces could be added near the Hildreth House.
The idea of expanding parking spaces near Hildreth House was not well received by planners as the original plan was to renovate the Town Hall using a minimal amount of land around the property.
An alternate solution Goldsmith offered was to renovate the Town Hall in a fashion that provides minimum use in order to accommodate existing parking. He believes to expand parking is not incredibly expensive if planners agree to modify areas around the building.
Converting a one-way street into a two-way street was another solution to creating more parking spaces.
The Town Hall currently has a capacity of approximately 132 people. With the existing parking spaces, parking has always been a problem but people have always found a place to park when public meetings have been held.
Some members of the board argued that the issue of parking is not just a Town Hall problem but a town center issue. To put the town center parking responsibility on the town hall project is wrong, members said. Others agreed that although this is a valid concern, it is irrelevant to renovating Town Hall.
Some members believe that to go forward on the Town Hall renovation knowing that parking is woefully inadequate is a major problem.
Goldsmith stressed the importance of additional parking to accommodate Town Hall's renovation. "You have to have parking next to your Town Hall," he said.
The possibility of placing four parking spaces next to Town Hall by Elm Street was mentioned. Goldsmith said if parking is not provided, people will find places to park that may block access for ambulance, fire and police vehicles.
It was proposed to either place reserved parking signs for these emergency vehicles or even reserve a couple of parking spaces specifically for compact vehicles.
"The plan is not creating the adequate amount of parking if they get rid of these parking spaces," Goldsmith said.
The issue was concluded by acknowledging that the plan to build a 250-seat auditorium in the Town Hall and not have adequate parking is definitely a problem.
As noted at the meeting, it appears that the project will go forward knowing that as far as adding parking spaces go, there are expansion capabilities, if needed.