Marion residents speak out about proposed Hiller Street changes

Feb 25, 2021

MARION — The town is planning to add safety signage to Hiller Street, but some residents think ‘no parking’ signs and new road paint may not be enough.

A Board of Selectmen public hearing on Feb. 25 drew comments from residents and selectmen alike on the proposed changes to the street, which intersects with Main and Front Streets, and includes a sharp, narrow 90-degree turn.

While proposed changes to the street wouldn’t affect its width, they would add ‘no parking’ signs and paint to limit the crowding of cars.

Hiller Street is just over 15 feet wide at the 90-degree curve that spills out onto Main Street.

‘No parking’ signs would be added at the curve, and new paint barring cars from parking in front of driveways and near the Front Street intersection as part of the proposed change. As a result, a few parking spots would be lost on the street, which is popular for post office patrons.

“Ultimately, we wanted to come up with something that wasn’t too intrusive and not too costly,” said Scott Damelio of Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc., the engineering firm working on the plan.

Damelio said that since the road is already too thin for two-way traffic at the curve, parking has to be discouraged.

“This is a fairly inexpensive way to try to control how people are haphazardly parking on the roadway,” he said.

He added that parking at the corner of Front Street also has to be discouraged in order to provide a proper sightline for drivers at the intersection.

“Your characterization of discouraging parking — I think the idea is to prevent parking,” Selectman Norman Hills said.

Under the road’s current setup, drivers can’t be ticketed for parking at the curve or too close to the Front Street corner. The changes would allow for such ticketing.

Notably, the handicap parking space on the street will be moved to a new location — not eliminated.

But to some residents, simple rule changes on the road may not be enough — especially if the road remains thin at its 90-degree curve.

“So if it’s not improving the safety for that corner — why wasn’t the plan to make it a one-way a more prevalent decision?” asked Marion resident and owner of The Mary Celeste Whisky and Wine Library Mike Achilles.

According to Town Administrator Jay McGrail, making the street one-way would force residents of the street to drive multiple blocks in order to make it to places only hundreds of feet away — like the Mary Celeste or the Marion General Store.

Department of Public Works Director Dave Willet added that “we wanted to stay with the character of the street,” while making Hiller Street as safe as possible.

Achilles followed up, asking how the street would be handled in cases where snow covers the painted lines preventing parking in some places — a question to which town officials had no immediate answer.

Achilles added that no changes should be made to the street until a larger parking survey is conducted in town.

No changes to Hiller Street were finalized at the meeting, and the town will continue to accept feedback on the plan.