Townhouse Parking Becomes an Issue

Jess Mawhirt

If you live at the Townhouse or have tried to visit, you might have noticed the serious lack of parking there. As of last semester, the Townhouse on Route 12B housed 213 residents, 66 percent of whom owned cars. However, there are currently only 136 parking spaces. That means that last semester about 8 Townhouse residents couldn’t park there. However, the Townhouse can hold a maximum of 275 students and was built as a community center for student events. This means that as Residential Life continues to increase the minimum occupancy of each Townhouse and as the Townhouse become more popular as a social destination, the parking problem may only get worse.

The situation has led to many inconveniences for Townhouse residents and visitors.

“This is my fourth semester in the Townhouse and [the parking problem] has only gotten worse,” Townhouse resident senior Matt Fortin said. “We have to actively plan our evenings around the availability of parking spots. Driving at night is simply not viable past 7:00 p.m. anymore because people circle the parking lot waiting for others to leave. It’s like playing musical chairs, but everyone sat down at 7:00.”

Students are also frustrated because they are consistently being ticketed for parking illegally, but have nowhere else to park.

“I almost exclusively park on the grass now [because] the ticket is actually considerably less,” Fortin said.

Another problem with the parking shortage is the safety concerns.

“People have taken to parking in and around the handicapped spots, fire lanes and even the Townhouse walkways.” Fortin said.

President of the Student Government Association senior Rob Sobelman expressed worries over this situation.

“The school has been helpful because it’s not just a matter of inconvenient,” Sobelman said. “Whenever there’s any kind of gathering there’s people parking on the grass and putting their blinker lights on…It’s really dangerous and very unsafe.” Blocking fire-lanes and driving in areas not meant for vehicle traffic could be a serious safety concern. Not to mention the fact that students who fail to find spots often have to park in the Hospital lots and walk.

The puzzling part of this problem is why the University didn’t foresee a higher demand for parking at this remote location. The fact that there are more people in the Townhouse who have cars, Sobelman explained, is not a coincidence.

“I was more willing to live there because I have a car,” he said.

The 14 million dollar Townhouse, built in 2005, were supposed to provide a community center, where gatherings and events could attract students from all over campus. The problem seems to be that the Townhouse were planned very fast and were built in a single summer.

The University, however, has made a significant commitment to alleviate the problem. Rob Sobelman and Vice-President of the SGA, Jenny Dorland submitted a report last October, asking the University to take action. As of this week, the University has drawn up two plans, one that could add up to 69 spots, but cost a hefty $7,000 a spot, and another that would cost less but only provide about 30 spots. The second plan appears to be preferred in order to preserve the green space to the south of the Townhouse. Plan B would take advantage of the spaces between parking areas where there are currently fire hydrants.

“We recognize the need to add spaces and are working on a summer 2008 project to increase parking spots while minimizing impact on existing green space and landscape features of the Townhouse grounds,” Assistant Vice-President of Buildings and Grounds, Paul Fick said.

Either plan would be very expensive and would have to go through several stages until approved. However, all are hopeful the project would begin in June 2008 and be finished by the start of the fall semester. Sobelman asked that the Townhouse residents and other students be patient as SGA and the University are working on the issue as fast as possible.

“We also have to do our part to keep the area safe,” he said.