New Montpelier parklet spurs concern over parking

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) The arrival of spring brings al fresco dining, and diners in Vermont's capital city will find new fresh air tables this year on Langdon Street. But not everyone is happy about restaurant seating replacing parking spots.

Down Home Kitchen in Montpelier has approval for new outdoor seating. "I just feel like the more outside spaces we have in downtown Montpelier where people can sit outside and enjoy being together, the better," said the restaurant's Mary Alice Proffitt.

Once completed, it will be the second restaurant to add seating in downtown parking spots after the city council approved permanent parklets earlier this year. But other businesses in the area worry the three parking spaces Down Home is using will hurt them.

"In a town where parking is an issue, to take three spaces for one business to increase their square-footage does not seem fair to me," said Yvonne Baab, the owner of Global Gifts. She says there wasn't enough notice to neighbors, and that there are only 20 parking spots for the ten businesses on this street.

Scott Baer who works at Langdon Street Tavern says neighbors only learned of it last week. "It felt like the city council kind of pushed forward with it in a very quick manner that we're not used to seeing in this town. Things don't always happen speedily and I kind of wish they had taken a step back and looked at more of the angles, more of the problems, and more of the concerns of the community," he said.

City Manager William Fraser says the city will try to improve noticing in the future. He says a parking crunch is eased in the summer, when lawmakers are out of town and more people walk and bike. "I think they have some legitimate concern, but the process did work according to the city's ordinance," he said. Fraser says city officials want to promote activity in the downtown, like Burlington does on Church Street. "That is the type of vibrancy we're seeking for downtown Montpelier."

Proffitt will pay more than $2,400 for the use of the three parking spots until the snow flies. She says the investment will also bring more foot traffic to the businesses around her restaurant. "I believe greatly that a rising tide of creativity and investment in fun concepts like outdoor parklets is gonna lift all boats in this small town," she said.

Proffitt says the seating, and a new takeout window, should be open for Memorial Day weekend.