BRATTLEBORO — Brattleboro Memorial Hospital is planning to make parking easier on patients and employees.
An additional 10 parking spaces between the hospital's helicopter pad and Maple Street along with other improvements were approved by the Development Review Board.
"There's just a need to help out with the parking," said engineer Brud Sanderson, of Stevens & Associates, representing the hospital at a June 20 hearing. "Right now, what tends to happen is patients come to the site and they spend a lot of time hunting for a parking space,"
The thought is that employees parking in the new spaces could help alleviate some of the traffic and improve patient access. Canopy trees will create shade for the parking and buffer from lighting.
Brattleboro Memorial Hospital Director of Plant Services Robert Prohaska said the hospital wants to keep an existing gate, which is used to stop traffic when helicopters are coming in. The gate may be moved later on but it was not part of the permit application.
After the project, the hospital will go from having 480 parking spaces to 490 and all spots will be restriped. The DRB was asked to look at a site plan and give the hospital local approval for an Act 250 permit that is issued by the state.
"The goal of this application is to improve the functionality of the parking," said Sanderson, noting that spaces are not well-defined and circulation is an issue.
By eliminating an access point used for 16 Belmont Avenue, he hopes to improve safety at the intersection of Belmont and Canal Street. An adjacent driveway will be replaced with parking spaces and a storm water mitigation system.
No change was proposed to the office space with a residence on the second floor.
"There is an existing shed facing Belmont we'd like to take down," he said, referring to 375 Belmont. "We'd asphalt pave everything."
At first, landscaping was proposed to include crab apple trees along Canal Street. But DRB member George Reed-Savory, who recused himself from the hearing to speak to issues as a neighbor, suggested "some kind of lower bushes" would be better for safety issues involving visibility. As part of a permit condition, the hospital will instead use juniper. Several tall trees on Belmont Avenue, in front of and behind hospital property, were proposed and approved.
Another part of the plan is to consolidate 375 Canal Street and 16 Belmont Avenue into one lot. That would help address setback issues with the proposed layout for parking, Sanderson said.
"It basically means we'll still have one lot that's in two districts," he continued. "It doesn't automatically get absorbed into the PUD (planned unit development)."
DRB Chairman James Valente said the issue had not come up during his "admittedly not very long tenure" on the board. Zoning Administrator Brian Bannon said the lots could be merged but 375 Canal Street could not be brought into the PUD. The property was recently acquired by the hospital.
"It's unusual but we can just document clearly where the boundary line of the PUD is," said Bannon.
Reed-Savory brought up additional concerns. He asked for a commitment from the hospital to clear the sidewalks on the northeastern corner of Belmont Avenue near Canal Street and the board listed it in its conditions for approval of the site plan.
He said it seemed the hospital was "continually adding parking spaces."
"At some point I think it's important to develop a plan for parking. We're fast running out of parking spaces. I don't think those 10 spaces are going to make a bit of difference," he said. "I see the need for parking. There isn't enough parking. I think whether it's a parking garage or whatever you want to do, it's important to do."
Prohaska said he would take the concern to the hospital's chief executive officer.
Other conditions from the board involve the hospital having erosion control notes in its plan once it receives its state storm water permit and undertaking a traffic control study when parking reaches 550 total spaces.
Contact Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.