Parking lots in Buzzards Bay that, as recently as last month, had been available for people to park in for free have been suddenly blocked off. The lots, located at the northern end of Main Street behind or adjacent to Antique Affair, the TD Banknorth branch, and See Breeze Optical, have been closed off with lines of boulders and tree trunks.
The lots are owned by local developer and Bourne Planning Board member Vincent P. Michienzi. The decision by Mr. Michienzi to close off entrance to the lots has left some business owners at that end of Main Street either angry or confused.
Laurie J. Kelly, owner of Antique Affair at 111 Main Street, rents the building her business is in from Mr. Michienzi. The sudden loss of parking spaces, she said, caused a drop in potential customers. She said that the loss of parking was especially felt over last weekend, the onset of the Fourth of July holiday.
“This past weekend was hell. Do you know how much business I lost?” she said, noting that potential customers do not stop if parking is not available.
Mr. Michienzi’s wife, Noreen P. Michienzi, explained that the lots were closed off because of problems she and her husband had with students at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy parking there.
She said that she and Mr. Michienzi were tired up picking up litter left behind by the cadets in the parking lots. She added that the cadets were disrespectful to her and her husband, and although a financial agreement was in place between the Michienzis and the academy, the couple has never been paid by MMA for use of the lot.
“We tried to work something out with Mass Maritime, but nothing happened,” Ms. Michienzi said.
On Thursday, June 19, vehicles parked in the lots were towed away, and soon after, the boulders and tree trunks put in place, closing off the area. Ms. Michienzi said that she and her husband were advised by Bourne Police Chief Dennis R. Woodside to have the cars removed.
“The chief told us, ‘Tow the cars, they’re not supposed to be there,’ ” she said, adding that the chief was on hand while the vehicles were taken away.
Chief Woodside said he told Mr. Michienzi that he was within his rights to block access to his own property. However, the towing of the cars was entirely Mr. Michienzi’s choice, and not the chief’s suggestion.
“The decision was his. We did not recommend it. We did not endorse it,” the chief said.
Ms. Kelly said that while some of the cars that were towed belonged to Massachusetts Maritime Academy students, some belonged to customers patronizing local stores, and some belonged to employees of businesses at that end of Main Street, she said.
“He just came in with four or five wreckers and pulled them out,” she said.
Next door, See Breeze Optical owner Dr. Stephen P. Holmes said that his main concern is safety in the event that emergency vehicles have to access any of the buildings behind his. He said that the only access now is from Main Street via a narrow driveway between him and the neighboring thrift store. He also pointed out that vehicles used to access parking behind his building by way of Cohasset Avenue, but now that entrance is blocked off, as well.
Bourne Deputy Fire Chief Joseph J. Carrara said that the current setup does not pose a safety issue or fire lane violation for his department. Mr. Carrara said that the boulders situated as they are “is not optimal, but it’s better than a six-foot-high stockade fence.”
“We can walk over the rocks and drag hoses over them, if necessary,” he said.
A small parking area right on Main Street, in between See Breeze Optical and Antique Affair, has also been blocked off by boulders. Kristen H. Costa, one of Dr. Holmes’s employees, said she was assured by Mr. Michienzi that he would not block off that area, out of consideration for the many elderly patients of the business.
“I told him we have elderly patients and he said, ‘Well, Dr. Holmes is a good stand up guy, I’ll leave that open.’ Then…he came and put the boulders in,” Ms. Costa said.
Rear Admiral Richard G. Gurnon, MMA president, confirmed that the Michienzis approached the academy and offered to sell MMA the lot where the old Buzzards Bay movie theater used to be. However, the academy declined because they do not have a parking problem, the admiral said.
“We have cadet parking stickers that have gone unsold,” he said.
He mentioned that many cadets park for free in non-MMA lots such as St. Margaret’s Regional School, St. Peter’s and the National Marine Life Center. The admiral said that the Michienzis asked that the cadets move their cars out of the lot. He told the students they had to move their vehicles, but some of them did not. The Michienzis then asked the admiral to ticket those who refused to move, he said.
“I told them I didn’t think I could, I didn’t have the jurisdiction,” he said.
That is when the Michienzis decided to tow the cadets’ cars. The admiral said that less than six cars belonging to cadets were towed before “the Twitter sphere blew up” and any other cadets who had parked in the lot showed up and moved their car.
The admiral said the Michienzis were, at all times, respectful, and he felt that, as the property owners, they were justified in blocking off the lot.
“They have every right to not have their parking lot be for free,” he said.
Ms. Michienzi said it is unknown at this point how long the rocks and tree trunks will remain in place. She said that, so far, no one has contacted her or her husband about use of the parking lots during the Cape Cod Canal Centennial Celebration later this month.