Thursday December 6, 2012

NEAL P. GOSWAMI

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- The owners of a local bakery say the state and town mishandled a decision to eliminate parking spaces alongside the business just a few weeks before Christmas.

Jennifer Krijnen, who operates Bakkerij Krijnen on east Main Street with her husband Hans, said the town highway department painted over parking spaces on the eastbound side of Main Street that served as customer parking. The decision stemmed from emails sent by Joseph Kelly, a regional traffic investigator with the Vermont Agency of Transportation.

Kelly sent an initial email in August 2011 noting the four parking spaces alongside the bakery were installed without agency approval. The spaces reduced the lane width to less than 11 feet and should be removed, he wrote.

Bennington Town Manager Stuart A. Hurd, in an email to the Krijnens, said the town chose to take no action at that time for the benefit of the bakery. However, a second email from Kelly sent on Monday prompted immediate action by the town. Kelly wrote that the parking spaces pose a danger.

"The parking spaces should be removed as soon as possible. The business owner as well as the Town are placing motorists in a dangerous and compromising position by forcing them to cross over the centerline in order to circumnavigate these illegally parked vehicles," Kelly wrote.

As a result, the town opted to act quickly and remove the spots.


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"Now that we have been notified again, we must act or face possible prosecution. The law provides for notice to the State’s Attorney should the Town or an individual ignore an order by the Agency of Transportation. I would agree that the email request does not rise to an Order, but continued inaction by the Town may result in that," Hurd wrote in an email to the Krijnens.

However, Hurd said town staff has measured the road and it is wide enough for parking on one side of the street. It will require measurement and repainting of the center line. That work will take some time to complete, and must be approved by the state.

Krijnen said she is happy the parking spaces may be restored. However, that will take time and will impact the bakery at its busiest time of year. "At this moment, it doesn’t look like we’re going to get our parking spaces back this year," she said.

Krijnen said she has enlisted the help of Bennington Rep. Mary Morrissey.

"(Morrissey) has already spoken to the state secretary of transportation, something is in the works, but right now I feel like it’s already going to effect our business for the busiest time of year. There’s no way around that," Krijnen said.

The bakery has space for two or three cars to park in a small driveway near the entrance. Krijnen said many customers are afraid to park there, though.

"A lot of our customers won’t pull in there Š because of their fear of pulling back out into usually speeding traffic," she said.

The situation was "grossly mishandled" Krijnen said because the town never informed her of the initial email from Kelly. However, she is hopeful the spaces can return.

"As long as I continue to be a squeaky wheel, they will. I think if I had just ignored the whole thing they would have continued on with business as usual. I’m certainly unhappy with the process and the way they handled this. I definitely think we should have known about the email that occurred over a year ago," Krijnen said.

Kelly could not be reached for comment Wednesday.