With the annual parking lottery looming in the coming weeks, students are again faced with the reality of fewer and fewer centrally located spaces to park cars. Over the past two years, 40 student spots around the Dodd Quad were replaced with faculty spaces, driving more students into peripheral lots at Lower Mission and Weston Field. The lack of student spots in the Greylock Parking Complex has also been a point of contention in past years. While some of the displacement can be attributed to construction projects and competing needs, it also fits within the College’s wider efforts to move student vehicles to the fringes of campus.
The conversion of student spots around the Dodd Quad was meant to account for the parking lost by faculty and staff to the Stetson-Sawyer project, which has closed Sawyer Drive. The new faculty spots, however, have been lightly used, a fact acknowledged by Dave Boyer, associate director of Campus Safety and Security. “I’m not sure where the people who used to park on Sawyer Drive are parking now,” he said.
Boyer added that the general movement of student parking spots away from the center of campus is more than simply the results of circumstance. “There’s been a conscious trend over the last ten years to take student vehicles from the center of campus and move them to the edges of the campus,” Boyer said. “We want to make it as inconvenient as possible for students to access their vehicles to discourage use. Our policy is fairly consistent with that.”
This sentiment is in line with the Denise Scott Brown plans for the College’s campus, drawn up in 2001 by the famed architect. The plans call for a relegation of the majority of student parking spaces to the edge of campus.
Beyond the memory of most current students at the College, too, is another dispute over the use of parking spots on campus. The Greylock Parking Complex behind the ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance (CTD), completed in 2002 and currently off-limits to student vehicles, was originally intended to include 109 student parking spaces, according to documents obtained from Williamstown’s Inspection Services Department (ISD).
Filed in late 2001 in conjunction with plans for the CTD, the submittal outlines campus parking requirements both before and after the completion of the new parking structure.
The new garage replaced a parking area, the Greylock “G-lot,” that provided 83 spots for students, in addition to 79 for faculty and staff. According to the Guntlow & Associates
plans approved by the town, the new garage contains 234 spots, allowing 109 for students, 115 for faculty and staff and 10 for visitors. However, since its completion, the lot has been exclusively reserved for use by the CTD and employees at the College.
An article published in the Jan. 23, 2003, issue of the Record outlined the debate that surrounded the new parking deck upon its completion. According to the article, CSS implicated the town in the determination of the use of the new parking spaces, claiming that a College Council plan for partial student use of the garage had been rejected by the College’s lawyers and town officials.
At the time, Peter Fohlin, town manager of Williamstown, offered a statement in direct opposition to this announcement. “The town has no policy with regard to College property,” he was quoted as saying, calling the use of the parking garage “none of our business.”
This lack of consensus surrounding the issue is still in evidence today, with College and town officials coming down on opposing sides. One rationale for the restricted use of the parking garage, pointed to by several campus officials, is that the CTD requires full use of the parking garage for its performances. “We have shows here all the time, even during the school year,” said Randal Fippinger, manager of performances and events. “We absolutely fill up the lot.”
Cosmo Catalano, technical supervisor for the CTD, explained this policy as one necessitated by the town. “Performance venues are required to have a certain ratio of parking spaces to theatre seats,” he said. “Using the CTD garage for student parking would reduce the number of spaces required by code for the CTD.”
However, the ISD documents indicate that during the academic year, even at maximum capacity in all CTD theatres, zoning regulations only require 167 spaces. In other words, a minimum of 67 of the 234 spots would still be able to be used full-time by students during the academic year.
“The town is primarily interested in parking for the ’62 Center,” said Mike Card, director of the ISD. “If the College wants to move around student spots, it can.”
When asked to comment, several College officials, including Jim Kolesar, assistant to the president for public affairs, and Bea Miles, director of facilities, pointed to Boyer as the source in parking matters.
Boyer reiterated the sentiments offered by Fohlin. “The town doesn’t require us to use [the garage] in any specific way,” he said, explaining that considerations of the use of the spaces were made by looking at the “big picture.” “There’s definitely consideration given to town residents, tourists, visitors, faculty, staff and students.”
With all of these factors taken into account, Boyer feels that the current use of the garage – shared by faculty and staff and the CTD – is the optimal arrangement. “Faculty and
staff vehicles don’t impact CTD performances because they leave at 5 p.m.,” he said. In the 2003 article, Kolesar expressed similar concerns with the potential of student use of the lot to conflict with CTD shows. “There would be no chance that we’d be able to get those cars out of there on performance nights,” he was quoted as saying.
Boyer explained that in addition to consideration for the CTD’s needs, the requirements of parking for contractors and construction workers is another limiting factor when determining the use of spaces. He explained that the College is contractually obligated to provide on-site parking for contractors, even if not all the spaces end up being used. “By keeping the garage freed up, we’ve had the flexibility to use it and minimize our negative impact on the town,” Boyer said.