Opinion

Letter to the Editor: Family Doctors makes parking plea

The Family Doctors medical practice has been located on Paradise Road in Swampscott and served the local community for more than 70 years. We are the only medical practice in Swampscott that provides the full range of primary care Services.

We currently are the primary care doctors for 15,000 people and provide urgent care services for many more people, most of whom live within a few miles of our practice. We are open 363 days a year (closed Christmas and Thanksgiving).

Parking is an issue for our practice. Over the years, we have met with the town Zoning Board and building inspector many times, after the fire which burnt our building to the ground in 1992, as we expanded our building to better serve our patients, and when we purchased the Dory Press building (our former next-door neighbor), which we converted to a landscaped parking lot at a major expense approximately 10 years ago. Parking has always been part of the discussion with a common goal of reducing parking on Paradise Road and of reducing the parking impact in the surrounding neighborhood.

A few years ago, we were able to reach an agreement with Sunoco Oil Company, the lease holder (until 2030) of the gas station property on Paradise Road across the street from the Clarke School.

At the time, the gas station had been closed for several years. It is our understanding that the previous administrations of town of Swampscott was unwilling to allow a gas station with a convenience store to be re-opened across from an elementary school.  

Given that the property would likely remain unused at least until 2030 and that there were random cars parking on the property and trash strewn in the parking areas, Sunoco was willing to sublet the parking area (not the building) to Family Doctors.

Before the sub-lease was finalized, the plan was presented to the former building inspector. We received a written decision from the town of Swampscott which approved and even endorsed the arrangement.

Family Doctors currently parks 15 to 20 of our staff’s cars in the lot on weekdays.  This allows for 15 to 20 parking places closer to our office and 15 to 20 fewer cars on Paradise Road and in the surrounding neighborhoods. In addition, the Clarke School crossing guard parks in the lot.

Town Meeting last week passed Article 27, “Adoption of General By-Law for the Maintenance of Blighted or Unsafe Structures or Properties and the Maintenance of Vacant Buildings.”  

The stated purpose of this article is to generate commercial tax dollars on property identified as underutilized or not utilized. One of the two properties which the new town administration has targeted is the gas station property on Paradise Road which Family Doctors has been using for staff parking.

No one objects to the need to maintain property or provide for safety. In our case, we have found Sunoco very willing to maintain their property. Family Doctors has taken on responsibility for the maintenance of the parking area. Of note, it was pointed out in the Town Meeting that there are other properties, some of them town-owned but not named for which this bylaw might also apply.

As part of the presentation of Article 27, the selectmen stated the intention to reverse the town’s commitment to the use of the Sunoco property for Family Doctors parking.

If and when there is another use for this property, Family Doctors would, of course, need to find other arrangements. However, in the meantime, to reverse the town’s commitment to Family Doctors staff parking would immediately make it more difficult for our patients to park, many of whom are frail and at risk of falling. It would also result in more parking in the surrounding neighborhood.     

Many of our providers and staff are also longtime residents of Swampscott and want what is best for the town. We ask all concerned Swampscott residents and patients of the Family Doctors to contact the Swampscott Town Administrator (22 Monument Ave., Swampscott, MA 01907 or through “contact us” on www.swampscottma.gov ).  

The new administration of the town of Swampscott has unnecessarily and, we believe illegally, reversed their commitment to Family Doctors. This reversal of commitment would result in increased risk to our patients and increased parking in the surrounding neighborhood.

Family Doctors  — Peter Barker, MD, Keith Nobil, MD, Laurie Witts, MD, Anthony Spartos, MD, Lisa Ceplikas, MD, Amanda Ritvo, MD, Miguel Concepcion, MD,  Elizabeth Alt, MD, Kathleen Caridad, MD, Harold Freedman, MD, Thomas Murray III, MD, Justin Yunes, NP, Sara Smoller, NP, Wendy Beaumier, NP, Cheryl Wisniewski, NP, Cody DeSouza, NP, Diane Dube, RD.

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