Thank you to the many people who provided the Operations Council and Board of Trustees with your questions, concerns and opinions about the proposed parking lot expansion for FUUSN. Based on the feedback we received, both the Operations Council and Board of Trustees have voted unanimously to proceed to the next step of negotiating “in principle” with Mark Development for an expanded parking lot of 27 spaces. Laurel Farnsworth developed an FAQ document that summarizes the questions and concerns we heard raised about an expanded parking lot, and we have included those questions and answers below. No final decision will be made until a specific proposal is negotiated.
Why do we need more parking? There are several reasons.
Accommodating our members. We have an increasingly aging and infirm population that cannot walk very far to come to Sunday service. While many congregants are willing and able to walk, bike or park remotely, some are not, particularly in winter conditions. More parking will encourage attendance on Sunday. We certainly will not have enough spaces for the entire congregation on Sunday but this will improve conditions for those that need it.
Improving FUUSN’s long-term financial health. We depend on the rental income from Pine Village and other tenants to help pay our expenses. We have recently lost rental income with the closure of the Santander lot. With additional parking on-site we could attract more tenants and/or increased income from our major Pine Village tenant.
During the week, parking anywhere in West Newton is very difficult with commuters, workers and shoppers all competing for spaces. We currently allow some Pine Village staff to park in our Washington St. driveway because there is no all-day affordable parking available anywhere in the vicinity. Reserved staff parking is worth additional rent from them. Pine Village is currently licensed for 41 children and has a waiting list. Those parents all used to be able to park in the Santander lot and walk across the street. Now we are allowing them to use our small parking lot to do that but it is very difficult and only possible because our staff are often working from home.
18 vs 27 spaces: PIne Village has expressed an interest in expanding into our basement space which would allow them to be licensed for more children, possibly as many as 70-80. If we allot 6-7 spaces for our own staff and 8-10 for the Pine Village staff, 18 spaces will be entirely inadequate for parents to also use the lot. If we find another weekday tenant other than Pine Village, parking will also be a major issue. Providing parking would make us more attractive and allow us to charge increased rent. Tenants and staff often live far from West Newton and need cars to commute.
Post COVID, we also expect to again have daytime users such yoga classes, bible study, etc. As long as we schedule these activities as we have in the past, we would avoid drop off times and be able to accommodate our members who do these weekday activities. Some of these activities also generate rent.
What will be the impact on trees/green space/Critter Garden? We will lose approximately 12 mature trees on our side of the chain link fence that divides our property from that owned by the MassPike/Dept. of Transportation. There are some mature trees on the other side so the entire tree canopy will not be lost. We will have the opportunity to plant In various places to make up for some of the loss including moving whatever plants from the Critter Garden that can find new homes on our lot. We will certainly take this opportunity to plant native trees and plants that will encourage pollinators of all kinds. Bob Persons believes that the proposed parking lot will accommodate a solar canopy to generate electricity and he could design it. This is an additional expense which we would have to figure out how to fund because the payback is long but would certainly be a way to make up for the carbon impact of losing the trees.
How will we accommodate the playground? We have space to enlarge the playground into the front lawn to make up for the losses due to the enlarged parking lot in the back. From a safety point of view, this is an improvement because the whole space would be in one line of sight and no one would have to go to watch children around the corner. We will work with Pine Village to design a small child play space and an older child play space so we can provide a better environment for smaller children. We would have to install new fences as part of this reconfiguration. These costs can be accommodated in our operating budget.
Are there other environmental issues to consider? Some people have asked for electric vehicle charging stations. We have to provide electrical wiring to lighting for the parking lot and outlets for things like the Christmas tree lights, etc. We certainly can install infrastructure for the possibility of charging stations and wait to see how the usage of the lot could allow for charging. At some times of day during the week, we would not be able to allow charging and we do not expect to allow overnight parking.
The issue of permeable paving has also been raised. Laurel has experience with this at the historic Allen House and the historic Durant Kendrick house and recommends against it. It has been very difficult to maintain safely and we can accomplish the same ends by building a drainage system that keeps the water on site.
We expect to design space for a new shed and lockable bike parking.
How will we share the lot with the restaurant next door? Currently, we have little or no need of parking on Friday and Saturday nights which would be a prime time for a restaurant. We would never share our lot on Sunday morning. We would not allow any restaurant parking before 6:00 pm on weekdays when Pine Village would be done and many of our staff as well and would make sure we negotiate opt outs for special events like Christmas tree sales, memorial services and special FUUSN weekend activities.
Managing the lot would be an additional issue that we do not currently handle. While some people park in our lot now to go to the movies, it doesn’t affect our usage much. We expect to negotiate exact times and limitations as part of this agreement and we will have to enforce it with signage and the threat of towing. We do not expect to allow any overnight parking so if someone leaves a car overnight, we would expect to tow it first thing in the morning.