Misuse of commodity

Thursday, February 01, 2018

I was surprised to read that the Shelburne Selectboard hopes to apply for almost $600,000 to improve parking along the Deerfield River in a Recorder article from Jan. 24.

This is a waste of public funds and a misuse of a truly valuable commodity — our public riverfront. There’s no data to support the belief that increased parking will solve the problems of local businesses. In fact, a parking study conducted in 2017 by Nelson/Nygaard Consulting, and funded with a previous $15,000 grant, found that there is more than adequate parking on the Shelburne side of the village. The problem is inadequate knowledge.

They suggested cheap solutions such as signage to direct visitors to public lots and to private lots open to the public, and changes to existing on-street spaces to provide pick up at local restaurants and stores.

The opportunity cost of property used can’t be ignored. A parking lot is not the highest and best use of a riverbank. What does the village give up by wasting this asset?

The Recreation Committee has proposed projects that could use the riverbank to improve the quality of village life for residents as well as attract visitors, such as “an in town hiking trail, public access to the Deerfield River and a town playground,” according to that Recorder article.

The “if you build it they will come” approach rarely works. Instead, if the village seeks to improve business, they need an objective assessment of the ways to do so. I urge the Shelburne Selectboard to request funds for a study by a professional town planner to guide the healthy development of our village.

Clarissa Spawn

Shelburne Falls