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Intense Debate Erupts at Pelham Village Meeting

Public or private?

That question was the central issue during a contentious board meeting at Village Hall Tuesday night.

Board members and village residents engaged in a vigorous debate for more than an hour about the status of Hillside and Brookside avenues as public or private streets.

The board sought to pass a resolution acknowledging the avenues as public streets. If approved, the Village would, among other things, accept a licensing agreement forbidding overnight, on-street parking. Overnight parking on public streets is illegal in Pelham.

Residents of Hillside and Brookside expressed outrage because the change would force them to pay a fee to park on their own street. Jaime Cabarrocas, who lives on Brookside Avenue, stood up four separate times during the meeting to protest the board's proposal.

"The licensing agreement is illegal," Cabarrocas said outside the meeting. "They are trying to have their cake and eat it too. To appease the neighbors, they deem it private. "

Residents stepped up to the microphone and shouted down the board's position with words such as "unfair" and "illegal." Mayor Ed Hotchkiss staunchly defended the proposal and maintained that the board had no choice but to make a decision about the avenues.

The genesis of the problem, according to residents including Cabarrocas, arose from a proposed change to the iconic Picture House. When the building sought to add a second theater, the zoning board mandated that the building needed a variance for water runoff. The Picture House planned to run a pipe down Brookside Avenue to dump the water, however could not do so if it were a private street.

Cabarrocas claimed that the board's involvement at this juncture is too coincidental and the administration is only acting in the theater’s best interest.

Hotchkiss, though, said The Picture House's plan is unrelated to the board's proposal.

"We feel it always has been a public street," Hotchkiss said. "We do not as a village want to litigate this."

The board postponed the proposal after the intense debate. Residents, however, continued to argue their points outside Village Hall following the postponement.

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