2017-04-20 / Front Page

Paradise Avenue Parking Area Is Eliminated

By Olga Enger

A small Middletown parking lot is now a memory.

The lot was at the intersection of Green End and Paradise Avenues, and was used by people to bike, sell cars or walk to the beach. Locals remember it as the lot where the town's water pump once sat.

Crews are currently filling in the pavement with soil and trees as a part of Best Management Practice (BMP) projects to improve water quality and reduce flooding in the Maidford River watershed. The projects were presented to Town Council by consultants Fuss & O'Neill in December 2015. At that time, the consultants explained that stormwater filtration units should be installed at East Meadows at Meadow Lane, Green End Avenue at Berkeley Avenue, Paradise Valley Park at Prospect Avenue and, where the parking lot is located, at Green End Avenue at Paradise Avenue. The Meadow Lane filtration units were eventually removed from the project scope.

Although the other locations will be restored after the filters are in place, the Paradise Avenue parking lot has been permanently removed.

"It is to reduce the amount of impervious area at that intersection," Town Engineer Warren Hall told Newport This Week. "The parking lot has been loamed and seeded. The four trees are going to be replanted."

The loss of the parking lot came as a surprise to at least one councilor.

"I was surprised when I saw it. I don't remember what we discussed in 2015. It would have been nice if we were informed," said Councilor Theresa Santos.

As of last summer, she was not the only one who was unclear about the parking lot's fate. As part of a broader parking discussion at the Aug. 15 council meeting, councilors discussed restricting the lot for beach sticker holders, due to out-of-state drivers using it to avoid paying the fee.

“I don’t think it’s right that we impose parking restrictions in all Easton’s Point, and all over the place, but allow that to happen,” said Councilor Paul Rodrigues, now the Vice Chair, at the meeting. He raised the issue to Town Administrator Shawn Brown earlier in the summer, he said. At that time, the pending plans to fill in the lot were not discussed.

Council approved a $352,000 project for the Maidford River Stormwater BMPs project to Sum- Co Eco-Contracting, LLC, out of Salem, Mass., at their Feb. 21 meeting. The funding is provided through the Sachuest Bay Coastal Resiliency Grant that requires a 25 percent town match in the amount of $88,000. The grant money was made available in the wake of Superstorm Sandy to reinforce the coastal area. Improving water quality has been a top priority for the town.

A similar stormwater filtration system is being installed at Sachuest Beach parking lot at Surfer’s End, along with regrading work to improve water drainage and reduce flooding. The Middletown Town Council unanimously approved a $145,998 contract to the lowest bidder, Yard Works of Warwick, at the March 6 Town Council meeting. The parking lot is closed during construction.

Recently, council approved a $453,382 project to D'Ambra Construction Co. to raise a portion of Third Beach Road near the fork in the road, to improve the water flow. The road will be closed during the day until May 20 to complete the first phase of construction. Although the project was initially scheduled to last up to 10 weeks during the beach season, the contractor was able to split it into two phases to avoid high season road closures. The final paving will take place in the fall.

"A half million dollars to raise a road. A half million dollars in 30 days. There are a lot of components to this. I just want to reiterate that I don't want to interfere with the beach time," said Councilor Dennis Turano.

All of the projects are expected to be completed before Memorial Day and are 75 percent funded through the federal resiliency grant.

To further the water quality program, the town may make residential and commercial homeowners financially responsible for their properties' impervious area. As part of the proposed fiscal 2018 budget, there is a stormwater utility fee assessed on the properties' impervious areas, which includes surfaces such as rooftops, driveways, parking lots and sidewalks. The revenue generated from the utility would be dedicated to stormwater infrastructure such as catch basins, drainage pipes, street cleaning and treatment systems maintenance, all of which are currently funded through the tax rate. An average residential home would pay around $80 for the new fee in the proposed budget.

Newport is studying a similar stormwater utility fee.

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