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Watkins parking controversy heats up

WATKINS GLEN—Opposition to a proposal for a two-hour parking limit in a municipal lot on Third Street surfaced at Monday’s meeting of the village Board of Trustees.
Louise O’Shaughnessy, proprietor of O’Shaughnessy Antiques, said a two-hour limit would make it difficult for her and others with limited mobility.
“I have severe osteoarthritis,” she said. “I park in the (lot’s) handicapped spot. I’m in a position where I can’t park five or six blocks away.”
Two-hour parking in the Third Street lot was proposed earlier this month by Jim Guild, owner of Famous Brands. Guild said he plans to open a new business, Seneca Lake General Store, in a three-story former hardware building at Third Street and Franklin Street.
He wants the entire municipal lot behind the building converted to two-hour parking for use by his customers.
O’Shaughnessy suggested there may be other alternatives, such as a parking voucher system, that would work as well.
David Sidle of Sidle Insurance presented officials with a petition he said contained the signatures of business owners and employees opposed to the two-hour parking plan.
“We feel this decision should consider everyone’s needs,” Sidle said.
Sidle’s father, David L. Sidle Sr., said the Third Street lot was empty most of the time when it was controlled by two-hour parking.
“Let’s not unfairly punish those who want to spend a day here, whether they are locals or tourists,” Sidle said.
Guild said the purpose of his proposal is to help business grow in Watkins Glen.
“We want to make it easy for the customer,” he said. “We don’t have to worry about where employees will park. It’s all about the customer.”
During his initial presentation May 4, Guild threatened to “pull the plug” on the general store project if the village failed to approve two-hour parking.
That drew a sharp response from O’Shaughnessy Monday.
“It’s unfortunate that those opposed to two-hour parking are being intimidated by someone who threatens not to open a store,” she said.
Ann Haughey pointed out that solving the parking problem is urgent, because three new stores are scheduled to open on Franklin Street between Second and Thirds streets.
Chris Franzese of the Villager Motel said he favors two-hour parking and hopes the officials act quickly, because he thinks overflow parking from the Third Street lot will end up on his property.
Mayor Judy Phillips said the trustees hope to have a parking proposal formulated by June 15, the board’s next scheduled meeting.
Also Monday, a group of South Avenue residents complained about poor drainage in their neighborhood.
Brenda Warren-Fitch and her husband, Tom Fitch, said the street needs curbs to channel the water away from residential properties and storm drains at South and Decatur Street move water out of the area.
Phillips referred their complaints to Mark Specchio, superintendent of public works, and suggested checking with the state Department of Transportation on the source of the water.
The officials also awarded a 2009-2010 recycling contract Monday to Arrowhead Disposal, the village’s current recycling contractor.
Arrowhead’s price of $3,000 per month is up $400 per month from that in the existing contract.
Trustee William Smagner voted against the contract because of the $4,800 annual price increase.
The village had one other bidder, whose bid failed to meet specifications.

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