NARRAGANSETT, R.I. — Surfers would have more spaces to park in a Point Judith neighborhood under changes put in motion Monday by the Town Council.
The council voted unanimously to prepare an amendment to Narragansett’s parking ordinance to add public parking spaces in the neighborhood around the waterfront public access points at the end of Conant Avenue and Pilgrim Avenue.
The amended ordinance would need to be voted on at another meeting, after more rounds of public comment and deliberation.
“People are parking in these areas,” Council President Jesse Pugh said. “What we’re doing is just not penalizing it.”
Late into the four-hour meeting Pugh amended the motion, specifying areas that would be affected.
Parking would be allowed on the south side of Conant Avenue from Ocean Road to the coastal access point. Parking would also be allowed on the south side of Louise Avenue to Calef Avenue and on the north side of Pilgrim Avenue from Ocean Road to the access point. The town would explore adding crushed stone “where practical” on those roads. There would be open parking at both access points.
The council also directed Town Manager James Tierney to explore widening the road at the public access points at the end of Conant Avenue and Pilgrim Avenue to be consistent with the dimensions of the actual town-owned public right-of-ways of record and to present a design to the council.
“We’re expanding parking. We want to make sure there is parking, that’s the whole point of this,” Council member Ewa Dzwierzynski said. “Making sure they have access, and parking is part of the access.”
The issue of balancing the access rights to the water with the property rights of nearby residents has simmered for several years.
Joe Gozzi is a homeowner on Calif Avenue and owns a corner lot on nearby Louise Avenue.
“The last time this was on the agenda in 2019 the council voted against it,” he said. “At that time the owner of the Bon Vue offered surfers free parking at the Bon Vue. Neighbors and many others thought this was an amazing opportunity that would serve the surfers and the community.”
Fifty available spots at the Bon Vue sounded like a great, cost-free solution to Gozzi and other neighbors, he said.
“That option is still viable to the town,” he said. He also listed Camp Cronin, Ocean Road and a nearby park as additional options for parking.
In preparation for the changes, Tierney and Community Development Director Michael Deluca identified town-owned property that could accommodate 22 legal parking spaces to help mitigate current safety issues caused by cars parking on the narrow roadways. Those included four spaces on Nichol Avenue, 10 spaces on Louise Avenue and eight spaces on Pilgrim Avenue. But the council appeared willing to open the roads up to even more spaces.
“The 22 spots, that was always the start of something,” Pugh said.
Some residents became upset when Murray appeared to frame the issue as a tug-of-war between longtime residents who use the area and summer visitors who want to make changes to restrict access.
“We can’t drop this ball, because a future Town Council is going to deny access,” Murray said. “We’re in the business of protecting access that has been well-established for generations. That is what our charge is, not worrying about somebody who’s there two weeks a year and might have a surfer in the neighborhood. The neighborhood is very surfer-friendly.”
Residents on the affected streets took issue with the changes that could add dozens of new parking spots along entire roads. They called for a delay in the process to further work on the proposed changes.
Gozzi, a 17-year resident, said he found Murray’s comments “offensive” and that the councilman doesn’t value him because he is not a Narragansett native.
“I have every right to own property, pay taxes, cast my opinion and do my good for the community,” Gozzi said.
Paul Figueiredo purchased a house on Calef Avenue, where he plans to enjoy retirement and return to the ocean spots he went to starting as a boy.
“We all need to co-exist in this neighborhood,” he said. “There are sections on Calef we can work to have designated parking areas, but we need to work together. I feel the frustrations from everyone – the council, the surfers, the neighbors, the residents. We just need to work together to resolve it.”
Resident Al Alba defended Murray and said the council was correcting mistakes by the former Town Council.
“We’re having it go back to the way it was for years and years,” he said.