Residents will now being able to park on Danvers streets overnight this winter unless a snowstorm is approaching.
That was the decision on Tuesday night by the Board of Selectmen, which unanimously voted to change a town policy that has existed for more than 40 years banning overnight parking between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. during the winter.
Chairman of the Board of Selectmen, Bill Clark, said he came into Tuesday night’s meeting prepared to send a proposed town bylaw change to a Special Town Meeting. But the overnight winter parking ban is included in the town’s traffic rules and regulations, set by the Board of Selectmen acting as the Traffic Commission, said Town Manager Wayne Marquis.
That cleared the way or the board to go ahead and make the change, which will be official on Jan. 1. While the overnight parking ban remains in place until then, Selectman Keith Lucy encouraged the police to be lenient in its enforcement.
The ban will only go into place when a snowstorm is forecasted to drop snow on Danvers and will still apply only to the hours of 1-6 a.m.
Marquis said the town would use its Reverse 911-like system with calls to cell phone and landlines, post it to the town website and contact Danvers Patch and North Shore 104.9. Two message boards would also go up; one near the intersection of High Street and Route 128 and one near the intersection of Maple and Poplar streets.
Selectman Gardner Trask said common sense should allow most residents to know whether a parking ban will be in place.
“If you hear a storm is coming you shouldn’t be parked on the street overnight,” he said.
A second message would then be sent out indicating the ban is lifted.
The policy change will also come with a “public communications campaign,” Marquis said.
For violators who are towed, the total cost would be at least $175, Marquis said - $125 for the tow, $35 for storage and $15 for the parking ticket.
Marquis estimated Danvers has towed six to eight vehicles – total – in the past six year for violating the overnight winter parking ban. With the storm-by-storm ban, it will be more common to tow, he said.
“There’s no way to predict what the (number of cars towed) would be in Danvers,” he said.
Marquis said he has checked with the tow companies that currently do business with the town government and they would have the ability to do the towing and store the vehicle, as required.
If a snowstorm is not headed our way, though, vehicles can park overnight on the street under the new plan. The change will be a “trial plan” that will be evaluated at the end of the winter.
Before its vote, Marquis summarized the board’s two options – either keep the ban in place mostly as it has been for more than four decade, with a seasonal ban on overnight parking, what he said was common in many suburban communities on the North Shore. In cities, he said, most allow on street parking except when a storm in approaching and a parking ban is put in place.
During the course of Tuesday night’s discussion, two possible amendments were suggested but not approved.
Bennett suggested that during the winter parking being allowed on only one side of the street in downtown areas. If the parking ban is ignored during a storm, he said, and cars are left on both side of the road it could leave only a narrow path for the plow to pass in between, making it very difficult for the road to get cleared.
And Trask suggested that the ban extend throughout the day, for as long it would take for snow removal operations to be complete.
Both of those amendments were withdrawn when other selectmen did not express support. In short, selectmen said the change from a wintertime parking ban to a storm-by-storm ban is enough and that they should hold off on making any other changes at the same time.
Selectmen Mike Powers said he did not want the town to be “on again, off again" with unclear policies but said he has heard loud and clear from residents who want the policy changed. About 10 residents looked on from the back of the Daniel J. Toomey meeting room in Town Hall as the Selectmen discussed and voted on the change on Tuesday.
“Nobody is saying keep the ban,” Powers said.
Clark said feedback to him was 10-1 in favor of lifting the winterlong ban and Trask said he favored the change but did hear from a small number of residents outside the downtown and Back Bay that they prefer the winterlong ban because it helps keep the town roads clear.
Clark said Tuesday night’s vote was a perfect example of town government being responsive to concerns raised by residents.
“We can react to people’s requests for the good of the community,” Clark said.