As Rome burns | Editorial

The City Council meeting on March 5 shows what happens when assumptions about behaviors are faulty. The parking ordinance put forth by the Council that would restrict parking along much of the Mercer Ways is one such example.

The city has long struggled with how to ensure that the Mercer Ways are safe for everyone — drivers, pedestrians and cyclists. To help, the Council directed the city to widen portions of the roadway beginning several years ago. The ordinance discussed on March 5 was to ensure that the newly paved space was not used to park cars that would force cyclists and pedestrians back into traffic and harm’s way.

Yet, it seems that cyclists do not use the new shoulders on the roadway. The grates on the drains are dangerous for bike tires and the wider shoulders are often full of debris and unsafe. Not to be dismissed are homeowners who live along the roadways who are outraged that the city plans to limit how they use the space in front of their homes. Surprisingly, cyclists and drivers alike seemed to agree that the roadways are working as well as can be expected the way they are now.

Chastened, the Council decided to set the parking restrictions aside and get more input before moving further.

But while a good deal of time and energy have been devoted to pavement, there are other pressing issues left by the side of the road.

The empty storefronts in the Town Center need to be dealt with now. The zoning now in place — most notably the 60 /40 rule that says that new businesses must be primarily retail — has kept potential tenants away.

The Council wants to ensure that the Town Center does not fill with tenants that close up by 5 p.m. each day. The intent to encourage Islanders to dine and shop downtown even after dark is admirable. However, property owners want to fill their space with anyone who is willing to pay. Residents want choice , variety, a place to park and a downtown that reflects the spirit of this community.


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