Parking at Mt. Pleasant: Consider bigger picture, officials urge

No cemetery should be an employee parking lot, Precinct 13 Town Meeting member Stephen Harrington says, and vehicles shouldn't damage or obstruct grave sites.

To promote these sensible views, the resident is urging residents to sign an online petition. You can see it here >>

Here are some points to consider about this issue:

    -- The town manager says work at Community Safety and on Mystic has shrunk parking spaces, causing employees to park in the cemetery temporarily.

    -- No one has provided documentation showing parked vehicles damaging a gravesite.

    -- The Cemetery Commission's chair urges the public to remember the bigger picture.

    -- Town counsel says parking in cemeteries is not prohibited.

HUMOR: Arlington's ghost parking lot

Petitioner was asked to detail views

Harrington, who has posted photos at Arlington Patch illustrating parking at Mount Pleasant Cemetery, was asked Aug. 2 to detail his views, but he has not responded to a list of questions. If he does, his answers will be incorporated into this story.

The longtime resident offered an explanation of how he sees such parking in a letter published Aug. 1 in The Advocate.

"During any season," he wrote "regardless of road work or the interminable construction on the police station, there are up to 50 vehicles parked along Sachem Avenue, and other cemetery roads, directly across from the front door of the public safety building ....

"Regularly, the entire Fire Department, including 10-ton apparatus, are parked in the cemetery."

One of the photos published by Patch shows a fire truck at the edge of Sachem but is not parked on a gravesite.

A firsthand look for a few minutes on one day

What's going at at Mount Pleasant? YourArlington's publisher drove to the cemetery. On Friday, Aug. 2, a morning wet from early rain, seven vehicles were parked along Sachem. None was on a gravesite. Two of the vehicles, trucks from a tree service, were next to a private home on Mystic, where service employees were discussing tree work.

Out on Mystic, near Summer, two police officers directed traffic as a crew dug up the street. Along Mystic at the Community Safety Building, as many as 20 parking spaces were unavailable because of the roadwork as well as National Grid's utility work there. A sign said the spaces would be unavailable from July 18 through Aug. 18.

Asked about employee parking at Mount Pleasant, Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine wrote Aug. 1: "The Community Safety Building is currently undergoing exterior renovation and National Grid is replacing gas main in Mystic Street.

"Both of these construction projects have significantly limited the amount of parking available on Mystic Street. This has created a parking need for employees and visitors of the Community Safety Building.

"Some of this need has been filled via parking along Sachem Avenue. I am currently working with the police chief, fire chief and Cemetery Commission on this matter and hope to have a more detailed way forward available in the near future."

He said he plans to address the issue the selectmen's Aug. 19 meeting if the board agrees. Chairman Dan Dunn was on vacation and unavailable to say whether he would place the matter on the agenda.

He added that "no violations are being issued for parking along Sachem Avenue, and there is no plan to change this course prior to further discussion."

Is it legal for employees to park?

Asked whether it is legal for town employees to park at Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Town Counsel Juliana Rice wrote Aug. 1:

"I am not aware of any state or local regulation that would forbid town employees from parking along the ways within the Cemetery."

Harrington's petition says: "Arlington's municipal employees, favored contractors, heavy equipment and firetrucks use the cemetery as a parking lot, degrading the road surface, encroaching on grave sites, desecrating graves and in violation of Mass General Laws."

Michele Hassler, chair of the Cemetery Commission, said she does not know what he means.

In a telephone interview Aug. 2, she said that Mass. General Law's chapter 114 addresses cemeteries.  Sections 41 and 42  focus on public ways and passages through cemeteries, respectively. She said neither has a bearing on the Mount Pleasant situation.

Seeking a broader perspective

"Let's look at bigger picture," she said. "People need to be tolerant about issues beyond the cemetery."

Commissioners have been aware of the parking issue for a while, she said, but they understand that it is expected to be limited to the time it takes for work on Mystic and at Community Safety to be completed.

A police spokesman has said the current phase of building work is to be finished in September.

"I'm not happy with the parking," Hassler said. The highest number of vehicles she has seen is 20, she said, but is glad to see the number declining after she and commissioners made their feelings known about the number.

Longer range, Hassler said, plans call for the roads through Mount Pleasant to be improved by 2015.

As for temporary parking of fire trucks, she said commissioners looked at the Armstrong Ambulance Co. lot, but it was not large enough.

In his letter, Harrington calls for a gate at Sachem Avenue that is "generally closed." To that, Hassler said, "We can't cut off access."

She said the commission would discuss the matter Aug. 14.

The petition is addressed to members of Arlington's legislative delegation, including two who previously were part of it but are no longer.

Because he is named as the chief recipient of the petition, Rep. Sean Garballey was asked these questions:

-- What action you can take regarding such a petition?

-- Would you take any action in response to it?

-- Do you regard this as an issue to be addressed by town officials only?

The state reprepresentative has not yet responded.

This story was published Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013, and updated Aug. 8 to add a link.

It was updated again Feb. 4, 2016, to remove the full text of Harrington's letter after Harrington alleged a copyright infringement, though it had already been publioshed in The Advocate. 

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