The St. James Civic Association is pushing a Lake Avenue parking plan to alleviate a shortage of spaces its officers say is strangling businesses on the hamlet’s main commercial stretch.
“People don’t like to go shopping down Lake Avenue because it’s very congested,” association president Kerry Maher Weisse said. “Lake Avenue is almost a bottleneck.”
Under the Association plan, Smithtown would lease empty or unimproved lots behind some businesses lining the corridor for $1 a year, leaving the town to pave and take over maintenance. Some of those lots are dirt or gravel now and abut homes. Some zoning changes would be required to build out the parking lots, she said.
Professional offices, small stores and a few restaurants line the roughly seven-block strip, where school buses and trucks traveling at 30 miles per hour share the narrow avenue with parked vehicles.
Weisse said she hoped to discuss the plan next week with town officials, who have so far responded positively but have not committed support.
“If there is a parking shortage and there’s land available for the town to lease for a minimal amount, then I don’t see any reason why we would not do that,” Supervisor Patrick Vecchio said.
Other improvements could be on the way for the area. Vecchio requested earlier this year a sewer feasibility study from the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency. He has also ordered town workers to install LED blinkers at Lake Avenue crosswalks.
Janine Argila, owner of Prism Wellness Salon and Spa, said in an interview Tuesday that she welcomed any solution to what has turned into a stiff competition for parking during the busiest weekend hours.
“It’s creating hostility,” she said. “We have clients who come in the door and the first thing they say is they had to fight for parking, or they’re late because they were parking.”
A few doors down, John Imbriano, a principal of A&D Gold and Silver, said he’d taken to putting notes on windshields of cars that overstay the 30-minute limit for on-street parking.
Lots of traffic and lots of street parking make for a bad mix, he said: “I pick up so many (side) mirrors here.”