Ferrisburgh addresses parking, speeding issues

FERRISBURGH — The Ferrisburgh selectboard last week moved toward creating a town-wide parking law and lowering the speed limit on Old Hollow Road, where residents for years have been concerned about the speed of vehicles, particularly through traffic.
At their May 20 meeting, board members approved a draft ordinance that will ban parking on the traveled portion of town roads for more than 15 minutes with permission from the selectboard, prohibit leaving cars on town property for more than 12 hours, and create a winter parking ban on town roads from Nov. 1 to April 15 between the hours of midnight and 8 a.m.
Violators could have their vehicles towed at their expense, or be “subject to any fines set forth herein,” although there are no specifics on fines in the draft approved last week.
Chairwoman Loretta Lawrence said the growing number of bicycle and road races being staged in Ferrisburgh prompted some of the regulations, even though there have been no serious problems to date, and officials also wanted to make sure town road crews could do their job.
“I think it will be most helpful when we have bike races, or in the winter, or when people have events that block the roads,” Lawrence said. “It will give us some teeth to keep things safe.”
Before the parking ordinance takes effect, the selectboard will have the proposal — which was prepared in large part by Selectman Steve Gutowski — reviewed by the League of Cities and Towns, the town attorney, or both, Lawrence said.
Officials said it appears, according to state statutes, that once that review is complete the ordinance can take effect immediately.
The board also decided to make the Old Hollow Road speed limit change, something area residents have lobbied for strongly in recent years, at its next meeting, on June 3.
The town has in its hands an Addison County Regional Planning Commission traffic study that Lawrence said justifies a reduction from the road’s current speed limit of 35 mph. Town Clerk Gloria Warden said the study stated a 30 mph limit would be justified on a road that residents said is increasingly being used as part of alternative route to Chittenden County.
Lawrence declined on Wednesday to say what new limit the board might pick, and she was also not immediately certain whether the new limit could take effect in June or would have to wait until August.
Vergennes City Manager Mel Hawley when asked said this past Wednesday that his reading of the statutes was that the town might be able to make a lower limit effective immediately once new signs were in place.
But Ferrisburgh road foreman John Bull said in an email the state law on which that opinion was based applied only to unpaved roads. Most new municipal laws in Vermont require at least 60 days before they take effect, with a 44-day petition period.
The board’s adoption of a new limit was delayed by miscommunication between residents and the selectboard, who believed at least some Old Hollow Road residents wanted an updated study before the limit was lowered. Selectman Jim Warden had offered at the board’s May 6 meeting to update the study.
By last week, the issue had been ironed out, and the board was ready to move forward.
“The end result out of all this confusion is that we are going to go with the study done by the regional planning commission,” Lawrence said.
The board also set a meeting to start planning for the town’s takeover of planning and organizing Ferrisburgh Day, a discussion that might include whether to start calling it Good Neighbor Day, as it was originally known in the 1950s through the 1970s.
Members of the Ferrisburgh Historical Society, which had run Ferrisburgh Day for the past several years, successfully lobbied the board on May 6 for it to become a town-sponsored and
-organized event.
The board set a June 12 date for an organization meeting. Lawrence said board members hope that at least one member of every other town board and commission will attend, and that members of the public who are interested in helping out with the community-wide gathering would also show up.
The meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. that Thursday in the town office building.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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