By Jennifer English, Contributing Writer
Final agreements between the town of Durham and UNH will be made Monday night about using the former Alpha Tao Omega fraternity site for temporary parking during construction.
Durham residents, businesses and construction workers have complained about the parking situation while construction workers have been taking up most of the spots downtown.
According to Durham Police Chief David Kurz, businesses along Main Street buy permits which allow them the “right to hunt.” These permits do not guarantee parking, but allow them to park in open spots in the Pettee Brook Parking Lot. However, construction workers have been parking in those spaces, leaving no room for businesses. This has created a chain reaction in which businesses park in customer spaces and customers have no place to park.
Kurz decided to contact the university about the nearby former ATO site because of these parking concerns.
“[The ATO site] is owned by the university right now with the idea that it’s going to be sold later to a hotel,” Kurz said. “I approached them about strategizing about how we can use that vacant lot for parking.”
The intent is to negotiate between UNH and the town of Durham for parking on opposite sides of campus.
“UNH has several major construction jobs that are going to be ongoing, and they want parking on the other side of campus,” Kurz said. “We’re going to give them space [behind the Dairy Bar and the railroad station] for the summer and they’ll give us spacing over here. It’s a quid pro quo.”
Town Administrator Todd Selig announced during a recent town council meeting that negotiations were ongoing.
“We will see whether or not [UNH] will allow the town to utilize the former ATO site as temporary parking during the construction season,” Selig said.
Because the site once housed a fraternity, there is already parking for around 40 vehicles. Kurz said that they should be able to almost double that quantity, without adding much additional cost.
One of the main concerns for the university is “exposure to litigations.” Kurz said that the university wants to have insurance so that they will not be held liable in case of injury at the site.
Stephen Pesci, Director of Special Projects and one of the main correspondents for this proposal, said that “final agreements are being reviewed by UNH Legal.”
“We’re going back and forth, but we’re close to signing an agreement,” Kurz said. “I’m hoping by the end of next week, we’ll be able to get people parking in there.”
Pesci said that the decision should be finalized by Monday.
While this would be a temporary solution, Kurz also mentioned potential future prospects for the vacant lot.
“[The pressure downtown] is also pointing to what we know we’re going to need at some point – the parking garage,” Kurz said.