Can the village’s struggling business district make do with nine fewer parking spaces?
That’s what the Ohio Department of Transportation is proposing as part of its ongoing traffic signal and lane repainting project at the corner of South Main Street and East Herrick Avenue.
The $233,000 project now calls to do away with 18 of downtown Wellington’s angled parking spaces. It would replace them with nine new ones parallel to the curb — amounting to a net loss of nine.
Wellington village officials, including mayor Hans Schneider, met Monday with ODOT in hopes of coming to a compromise. ODOT says it cannot repaint the lanes without eliminating the spaces and the safety aspects of the traffic signal project will be negated without repainting the lanes.
ODOT originally planned to start the repainting Nov. 2.
“We’re asking to delay the project, which will give us time to put together some options,” said Schneider. “ODOT is going to look at some numbers to see what’s feasible and get back to us. We’re looking at a space on East Herrick behind the library as a potential spot for new parking (spots) that can compensate for the loss of the old ones.”
Former mayor Barbara O’Keefe and former village manager Steve Pyles signed off on the deal when Schneider was still a member of council. Schneider said he and other council members were not informed of the potential loss of parking until interim village manager Mark Rosemark halted the project on Oct. 6.
He pointed to a lack of communication between Pyles and village council as the root cause for the surprise.
“At no point was council ever informed there would be an elimination of parking spaces,” the mayor said. “This goes back a year or two. I was there. We were never told about it. I guarantee it would have been vetoed… We would have never pursued it. I don’t think it should come as a shock to anyone who’s attended a meeting that there were problems with communication between the former village administrator and council.”
He said he does not think O’Keefe should share blame for the oversight.
“I saw the contracts that were signed and there’s no way mayor O’Keefe would have knowingly signed off on losing nine spaces,” he said. “This shouldn’t fall on her. It falls on the former village administrator.”
Police chief Tim Barfield agreed.
“This is not a situation where ODOT isn’t being cooperative,” he said. “A village employee who’s no longer here is kind of responsible for this. He didn’t bother to communicate anything about us losing a bunch of parking spaces. Nobody was privy to this information.”
Members of the downtown business community greeted the news with frustration.
“They (ODOT) don’t care about what happens in Wellington,” said Al Leiby of the Spirit of ‘76 Museum. “They just care about getting people through Wellington.”
Pyles, reached by the Enterprise at his office, said council was aware of the parking plans from the beginning. He served as Wellington’s village manager from 2006 until this August when he accepted a similar position in the city of Granville.
“They knew about the parking,” he said. “I got an email from Hans (Schneider) today asking if I remember anything about parking. I’m getting ready to send back some hints on how he can solve these problems. It’s really easy for people to point fingers when someone’s not there to defend themselves. They were aware of the project. I’m not sure if the plans even showed anything about the parking.”
He said similar problems were encountered during Wellington’s underpass project.
“There’s a section of the Ohio Revised Code that says what ODOT can and can’t do in incorporated villages. Parking is within the realm of the village’s control,” he said.
We asked about similarities between administration duties in Granville and Wellington.
“There’s no comparison between the two communities. That’s just the way it is. It sounds like it’s getting ugly out there and hopefully I won’t see that fire,” he said.
When asked to elaborate on those statements, Pyles declined to comment.
Issues have also risen with the signal configuration at the intersection, which Schneider said ODOT has agreed to rework.
In a letter to ODOT, Rosemark cited ongoing confusion regarding red arrows on left turn lane signals.
“The turning arrow, while green, is clear enough,” he wrote. “However, when that arrow turns red with the adjacent light green, drivers are not sure whether to attempt the turn or not. One has to actually view the situation to appreciate the problem.”
ODOT wants the village to look at a “five lamp” configuration that would provide a set time for turning left, after which the light remains green and allows for a left turn with no oncoming traffic.
“I would reference signals at Maple Street and North Main here in the village and the signal configuration at Rt. 58 and Rt. 20 in Oberlin,” he wrote.
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Jonathan Delozier | Wellington Enterprise Plans call for elimination of 18 of downtown Wellington angled parking spaces and the creation nine new ones parallel to the curb.