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NARRAGANSETT, R.I. – A measure that would add 22 parking spaces to the area near waterfront public access points in Point Judith failed to pass the Town Council after a contentious hearing at a Dec. 16 council meeting.

Supporters said the goal of the motion  introduced by Councilors Jesse Pugh and Patrick Murray to amend the town’s parking ordinance was to provide parking for surfers and other recreational users of the waterfront access points and alleviate a problem of cars parking on the surrounding narrow residential streets.

“Earlier on this year there were reports of a lot of ticketing in this area,” Pugh said. “This is an area that’s always been a surf spot, where people park to go to the right-of-ways. For decades it’s been used.”

The parking recommendation came out of a Nov. 18 parking workshop involving the council, Town Manager James Tierney and Community Development Director Michael Deluca.

They identified town-owned property to accommodate 22 legal parking spaces. Gravel and crushed stone would be added to widen the road in certain areas and create space to safely park vehicles.

In total, four spaces would have been added on Nichol Avenue, 10 spaces on Louise Avenue and eight spaces on Pilgrim Avenue.

“We took special care to put spots only on one side of each road, and on town-owned property,” Pugh said. He called the proposal a compromise to pull cars off the nearby roads and “normalize” parking there.

“It’s hard to think of any other neighborhood where there’s absolutely no parking,” he said.  

The new parking areas would be subject to review by the state Coastal Resources Management Council, the Department of Environmental Management and any other relevant state agencies.

The proposal failed 3-2, with President Matthew Mannix joining Councilors Rick Lema and Jill Lawler to vote against it.

Lema said he understands that the town is a popular destination for surfers and other recreational users of the water.

“Surf’s great at Monahan’s dock and Point Judith,” he said. With that in mind, he approached the Bon Vue Inn about offering some additional parking for visitors to the area.

“I think that was pretty good of one of our local businesses to open its door,” he said. “But to go into a neighborhood and say ‘I need to park there?’ I don’t think the quality of life would be the same.”

Lawler said visitors can use the existing public parking areas at the lighthouse or the Bon Vue Inn, and that the town shouldn’t put the concerns of “special interests” from out of town above those of residents.

Pilgrim Avenue resident Paula Darin said she chose her property because it was a quiet, narrow street with not much traffic.

“It is a summer refuge,” she said. “You can walk to the beaches and enjoy the beautiful coast.”

She’s for surfing in the area. But, she said, a hazard exists when cars are parked on both sides of the road.

“I go for walks on a regular basis and when I try to walk around the corner when there’s surfing, you take your life in your own hands. There’s no room for the cars, they can’t see who’s walking. It is a true hazard.”

Surfer and resident Keith Kyle said he lived on the Pilgrim Avenue extension throughout college and never experienced problems with parking or surfers during that time.

“It was not until the town put in the no parking signs that issues began to arise,” he said. “Residents and surfers were able to accommodate each other for the very few times we have large swells there.”

He supported the proposal and said the council’s move is “constructively denying access to the right-of-way.”

He called for a reasonable solution that accommodates everyone.

“This is not a daily experience,” he said. “This is once, twice, maybe three times a month if all us surfers are lucky.”

Murray expressed frustration that for the last several years, the town has been reducing parking spaces and called the proposal to add spaces a welcome change.

“Here we live in the Ocean State but God forbid, don’t park near it. Don’t go down there,” he said.

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