Several households and a local business, in fair South Burlington, where we lay our scene, from yearslong grudge break to new mutiny, where on-street parking makes civil hands unclean. And leaves residents wondering if the elimination of minimum parking standards – enacted in October – will proliferate the issue, citywide, in years to cometh.
Like the strife of two families in a certain Shakespearean play, an old conflict between Brookwood Drive and Sherry Road residents and Dorset Street Dermatology has reached a head. Neighborhood residents claim that the dermatology office lacks sufficient parking for its customers and employees. Consequently, they say doctor and business owner Mitchell Schwartz instructs his employees to park elsewhere so that customers can have the lot; turning their roads into a commercial lot of sorts.
Residents claim they have endured years of blocked driveways, no room for guests to park and cars encroaching on their lawns. They believe the parking makes for inadequate room for plow, street sweeping and emergency rescue vehicles to drive through.
Following a lengthy conversation during the city council’s Nov. 4 meeting, it looks like city staff are prepared to intervene. Councilors will likely vote on whether to ban parking on the south side of Brookwood Drive, as well as both sides of Sherry Road during their Nov. 18 meeting, Chair Helen Riehle said. Before then, city staff hope to speak with Schwartz to find a solution. Brookwood and Sherry residents were hopeful a permanent fix might be resident-only parking along their streets. The city seemed willing to consider the idea, which would require a public ordinance and new laws.
Ken Dattillio, a lifelong city resident and Brookwood Drive homeowner, attended the meeting and spoke to on-street parking woes. He and his wife long for the days when their neighborhood was a quiet, navigable space.
“This is a very, very emotional thing for us,” Dattillio said. “Our neighborhood has been taken away from us.”
He said the road has gone from residential to commercial, and that with it have gone residents’ rights to have their road adequately plowed, swept and safely open for emergency response.
“The city council, the planning commission, the zoning board, all of you have played a role in allowing this to happen,” Dattillio said. “You have allowed a complete intrusion into a residential neighborhood for the sake of a business who doesn’t care about those people who live on the periphery of their business.”
But Dorset Street Dermatology Practice Administrator Andrea Sprague says her staff has done nothing wrong in parking vehicles along Brookwood Drive. Parking on those streets is legal and has been made more difficult by residents placing objects in the road to obstruct parking, she said.
“We’ve actually been contemplating calling the P.D. on certain residents,” Sprague told The Other Paper. “They’ve chased my staff; they’ve been, actually, horrific.”
And while the office has its own physician and staff parking area, the business has grown, with new employees and patients outnumbering parking spaces.
“It is sad that residents don’t want to see a new and growing business in the area … as it benefits everyone,” Sprague said. “Our growth has created more jobs for South Burlington.”
She added the growing business has also reduced the amount of time locals have to wait to see specialists for skin cancer treatment and other health procedures.
Sprague says her employees are respectful of where they park and have “never done anything to negatively affect residents.”
“It’s disheartening and honestly unacceptable, that [employees] have to choose between caring about the hardships that could be placed on patients who need medical care to find parking far from the building, or to be screamed obscenities at and physically chased to and from work,” she said.
Sprague added Schwartz is currently discussing a winter parking agreement with a business in the University Mall for his employees, but those discussions have not been finalized.
Parking concerns citywide
During the council meeting, South Burlington resident Barbara Waters shared her concern for how this scenario could play out citywide, in the future, following the recent elimination of minimum parking standards.
“I disagreed with the vote that you took about taking away all the parking regulations,” she said. “We now have an example of what may happen in the future.”
She suggested the council consider future development and work on guidance for residential parking.
According to Fire Chief Terry Francis, emergency vehicles can navigate the street despite dual side of the road parking.
“[Brookwood Drive] is actually designed to have parking on both sides of the road for part of the road,” Francis said. “The trick is people staying within the designated spots.”
But Francis is sympathetic to the residents’ concerns, he said they are not used to that volume of cars parked on their streets.
Police Chief Shawn Burke added there have been no car crashes near Brookwood Drive and Sherry Road and that the department has received few calls to respond there. But, he added, there are things to consider with the increased parking volume. Those include crossing areas for pedestrians and creating a line-of-sight for motorists entering and exiting driveways.