WESTPORT, Conn. It's a weekday afternoon and you're driving through Parker Harding Plaza, searching for a parking space, when up ahead you see what appears to be an empty spot. But as you approach the space to pull in, you can't, because it's taken up by a Dumpster.
That has happened to Kelsey Tanner, a Norwalk resident who works in Westport, on more than one occasion over the past few months.
"I work on Riverside Avenue, so I frequently come here for lunch or to grab a cup of coffee," said Tanner, who has worked in Westport for six years. "Parking here has always been a nightmare. But having multiple Dumpsters taking up at least two parking spaces each that's not making things any easier for any of us."
As of Tuesday, four Dumpsters and two portable storage units were parked in Parker Harding. Two Dumpsters, because of their size, are positioned horizontally along curbs to not obstruct traffic. As a result, each one takes up three parking spaces.
Although Tanner said she was aware that several stores are undergoing construction and that extra Dumpsters are needed, she questioned whether contractors need permission to take up parking spaces.
The answer, Westport Public Safety Officer John Parisi said, is yes. Contractors must apply for a Dumpster permit before they can park one on town-owned property.
"They have to fill out a form that says why they need the Dumpster, how long they'll need it, how big the Dumpster is and how many parking spaces it'll use," Parisi said. "Then I meet them at the site, and they show me where they would put them."
The same rules apply for the portable storage units, Parisi said. These permits, he added, must be approved by the police department and then by the first selectman's office.
Like Tanner, Westport resident Miranda Gibbons is also frustrated by parking in Parker Harding. However, she said the Dumpsters aren't the problem. "People can complain about the Dumpsters taking up space, but how else would they propose work on these stores get done?" Gibbons said.
"Even if none of the Dumpsters were there, people would still have a problem finding a space because there just isn't enough parking downtown. And the parking is only going to get worse as more stores move in, drawing more out-of-towners."
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