By Tessa Raebeck
At Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting, the district’s architect, Larry Salvesen, laid out three options for expanded parking lots at Pierson. Altered from the plan originally proposed in a capital projects bond approved in November, the options aim to address criticisms from members of the community that the parking lots would encroach on green space and drastically disrupt the vista of Pierson Hill.
Plans for the Hampton Street lot at Sag Harbor Elementary School, a considerably less controversial project, have been scaled back and now call for the addition of 15 new parking spaces as opposed to 25. The plan extended the lot toward Hampton Street, adds an internal circulation route and places crosswalks across the exit and entryway.
At Pierson, there are 112 existing lined spaces. The Jermain Avenue parking lot has 39, the Division Street parking lot also has 39, the Montauk Avenue lot behind the school has 28 and a small administrative lot on Division Street has six spaces.
There are 152 staff members, Mr. Salvesen said, adding there are also spaces reserved for visitors and the handicapped, leaving about 40 employees without spaces.
“Right now, there’s not an issue with faculty parking,” Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols said later in the meeting, adding most faculty members park on site and he knows of only two employees who park off site, both by choice. There are also several spaces given to students on a rotating, lottery basis throughout the year, Mr. Nichols said, calling the situation “pretty good from my perspective.”
“The intent here was to keep the existing counts, improve the safety and if at all possible add a few spaces,” Mr. Salvesen said of the original bond plan, which had the parking lot being expanded about three-quarters of the way down the northern edge of Pierson Hill.
Mr. Salvesen presented three new options to the board and the community, which will now go to the Educational Facilities Planning Committee, the group responsible for drafting the bond, for its review.
Option 1 is closest to the original plan, but adjusts radii to allow for safer access for buses and emergency vehicles. Buses would load and unload on the side of the parking lot, bordering the building. The plan includes potential on-street parking for nine cars if permitted by the village, which has jurisdiction over the streets. All options would add a sidewalk along the street for the length of the hill with crosswalks at the entry points.
Option 1 would propose a total of 44 lined parking spaces in the Jermain lot (see above).
In Option 2, the school bus loading zone would be moved to an on-street pull-off loading zone on the southern side of Jermain Avenue, which Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano told Mr. Salvesen he would permit. The Jermain lot would have 38 spaces.
Options 1 and 2 call for the removal of an old Norway maple tree that Mr. Salvesen said is not in good health and “will take care of itself over time anyway,” and the relocation of several others.
Both options provide for the potential to construct five additional spaces in the Jermain Avenue lot in the future.
A “reduced scope scheme,” according to Mr. Salvesen, Option 3, would still expand the Jermain Avenue lot westward, but considerably less so, with less intrusion onto the walkway and green space on the hill’s northern edge. It would have 30 spaces, five spaces for on street parking, if allowed by the village, and an optional three spaces that could be constructed later on. The Norway maple would not need to be cut down, although two trees, the dedication tree and a small double cedar, would still need to be relocated. The bus-loading zone remains on school property.
The net gain of Option 3 is one parking spot.
In all three options, the Division lot has 49 proposed spaces, with the 10 additional spaces made by filling in the green tree wells, once occupied by trees that have since died.
Board member Mary Anne Miller said she is “not in favor of cramping the Jermain lot at the expense of the Division Street lot.”
Ms. Miller said since 2004, enrollment in the district has grown by 135 students, “so it isn’t the sleepy little Pierson that it used to be.”
Carol Williams, who lives across the street from Pierson, called the first two options “extremely destructive to the character of the hill” and asked whether the plans could be superimposed over an aerial photograph.
Gordon Herr asked the board to consider a product his company, Marketing Works, sells, EcoRaster permeable paver, a green alternative to asphalt. Manufactured from 100-percent recycled bags, the product resembles a box-like planter and allows for grass parking lots, has a 20-year warranty, does not deteriorate in extreme temperatures, can be plowed over and can sustain trees, Mr. Herr said, eliciting cheers from the audience.
All of the options, which will be run by the planning committee at an open meeting Tuesday, April 8 and again presented for public input at the following board meeting, Wednesday, April 23, allow for a 100-foot drop-off area along the right side of the Jermain lot, which Mr. Salvesen said could alleviate the congestion in the Division Street lot.
Addressing the traffic safety issue for afternoon pick-up and morning drop-off, Mr. Nichols proposed some temporary solutions to be implemented, which the board approved.
The first is to provide multiple points of entry into the building: the main entrance, the Pupil Personnel Services door off the Jermain lot and at the cafeteria, to accommodate students entering from the Montauk lot.
Mr. Nichols also suggested closing the entrance to the Division lot off in the morning (except for teachers parking there) and encouraging parents to head down Division Street from Grand Street, rather than up from Jermain or from Marsden.
The school will station two people, in addition to the current monitor John Ali, to monitor the Division Street area and two people to monitor Jermain Avenue. Mr. Nichols said they will be “very proactive” in letting parents know of the changes and would implement them beginning Monday, April 7.
The plans presented by Mr. Salvesen on Tuesday also include a renovation of Pierson’s main entrance, currently hidden in a corner by the Division lot. With “some of the character of the former front door” at the top of the hill, it will have a gateway arch, thin steel columns and tablature with the school name to make the entrance more prominent.