By Kim Howard
The Williston School Board last week was asked to consider sharing a school parking lot with a local business.
Town Planner Lee Nellis and Zoning Administrator D.K. Johnston asked board members to consider a new driveway connecting the Old Brick Café and Williston Central School parking lots. The café is in Williston Village across from Town Hall and adjacent to the Old Brick Church.
Old Brick Café owner David Herskowitz earlier this year proposed enlarging his parking lot by buying .17 acres from the school. Nellis told the School Board the town cannot approve that plan because the parcel is a wetland area of Allen Brook, an impaired watershed.
“There’s certainly no need to pave that wetland when there is enough parking (nearby),” Nellis told the board.
Herskowitz could build a one-way driveway linking the café’s lot with a school-owned parking lot that sits directly behind the Old Brick Church, Nellis said. That lot is used by school visitors and library staff.
A written shared parking agreement, Johnston said, could allow the school to lease parking to Herskowitz at certain times of day, with a presumption space would be available. An agreement could include financial payment to the school, he added.
An inventory by town officials indicated there is sufficient parking for staff in the parking lot west of the school, Nellis said. More parking also is available close to the recreation fields.
“We’re here to suggest to the board that a shared parking arrangement is of benefit to the community,” Nellis said. “We need to have a civics lesson here and an environmental lesson.”
School Board Chairwoman Marty Sundby lauded the idea of not paving over a wetland, but expressed reservations about a driveway linking the two lots.
“If you only allow him one way access between his lot and our lot, all of those cars have to go in front of the school” when they exit, Sundby said. “And that’s a K-8 building.”
Parents who drop off and pick up their children already generate traffic there, according to Nellis.
Sundby said she doesn’t like that either.
“We’ve had this problem all along, but this is going to add to it,” she said.
Board member Holly Rouelle questioned if there would be sufficient parking on Saturdays when soccer games are being played and parking is at a premium.
Nellis said he did not see that as a problem. Once the new police station is built across the street from the Old Brick Café, he said, there will be even more parking in the area. Lunchtime Tuesday through Friday could cause the greatest conflict, Nellis said. The café is not open on Mondays.
Williston Central School Principal Jacqueline Parks said she wants to look at how many staff members are using the lot in question. She said they already have been asked to park in the west lot, meaning that when the front lot is full, it is being filled by visitors.
Liability and monitoring of a shared lot could be concerns, Sundby said.
The board decided to discuss the issue further at its Dec. 7 meeting.