Local business owners walk an uneasy line in Duxbury. Even business owners in town say that any pro-business efforts should focus not on attracting more business to town, but on making things better for existing owners. Commercial endeavors in town inevitably butt heads with the a desire to preserve the residential nature of Duxbury, and itâ€™s that thin line the members of the Economic Advisory Committee are attempting to walk.
The group recently met to discuss the results of the two surveys. Although they received several hundred responses to the resident survey, which was distributed at Town Meeting and online by the Clipper, the results from the businesses were more disappointing. Out of 300 names compiled from the assessorâ€™s list of businesses and business permit holders, only 19 surveys were returned.
â€œThis is not a quantifiable survey, but some things popped out,â€ said committee member John Bear.
The biggest complaint in the survey of business owners was the lack of parking, notably in the Snug Harbor and Hallâ€™s Corner areas. The second biggest problem, according to the survey, is restrictions on signage.
â€œA number of people mentioned a place to sit [in Hallâ€™s Corner,]â€ said Bear.
Committee member Georgia Clancy, of the Duxbury Bay Maritime School, said that traffic in Snug Harbor is really only a major problem on weekends during the summer. She said that the school has the ability to park off-site, but other committee members discussed looking into using some open lots in the neighborhood as temporary parking for those peak weekends.
J.R. Kent, owner of Bayside Marina, said he has long been frustrated by the lack of parking in Snug Harbor.
â€œThe townâ€™s parking is very small, no doubt about it,â€ he said. â€œTheyâ€™re not being proactive to protect the problem.â€
In addition to the parking issues, some businesses complained about an anti-business sentiment on the Planning Board and other government bodies. Economic Advisory Committee Chairman Tom Tucker said that a business owner and survey respondent â€œbent his earâ€ for over half an hour on the subject.
Bear, who is on the Planning Board, defended his board, saying that applicants are given a detailed instructional checklist.
â€œOver all it really hasnâ€™t hurt many people,â€ he said. â€œThe process really isnâ€™t that onerous.â€
However attorney Phillp Markella, who sometimes represents clients before the Planning Board, disagreed, saying potential business owners will dutifully follow the checklist, only to be confronted by unexpected questions and demands.
â€œItâ€™s less of an acceptance, itâ€™s more waving a white flag to get a business going,â€ Markella said.
Kent, who used to be part of the Economic Advisory Committee but said he has grown frustrated with the lack of change, also said the rules should be clearer.
â€œThey should have a set of rules ... that doesnâ€™t depend on the mood of a board member,â€ he said.
Kent said he didnâ€™t feel that the town could support much more business, but could be more supportive of existing merchants.
Town Planner Tom Broadrick said he feels better zoning, within the existing business areas, could help encourage existing businesses without opening up new land to development.
â€œI think itâ€™s time to rezone the business districts,â€ he said. Weâ€™re hearing that the town is anti-business, how can we fix that within the business nodes.â€
He said that careful zoning would allow the town to control the types of businesses that move in.
â€œMost of the smart growth stuff today says retail first floor, office second, apartments third,â€ Broadrick said. â€œIf you zone retail, youâ€™re going to get retail, if you zone mix, youâ€™re going to get a mix ... it depends on what you want.â€
In terms of the residential survey, Bear said the residents of Duxbury do patronize local businesses, even if they are wary of â€œbig boxâ€ stores and large-scale developments.
â€œPeople would like to support local business and they find them convenient,â€ he said.
The survey indicated an interest in places to eat, both casual and fine dining, as well as desire for a local hardware store.
â€œThat would be kind of fighting a trend of the big box stores, with neighborhood stores,â€ he said.
In addition to gauging what kinds of businesses people want, the survey also gave some clues about whatâ€™s not needed in Duxbury.
â€œThey were generally not looking for more office space,â€ Bear said.
Many of the resident concerned echoed those of the business owners, such as lack of parking.
â€œWe donâ€™t need any more businesses in Duxbury. Letâ€™s make the ones we have successful,â€ wrote one commenter on the survey.
The group is still looking for a member from the business community. Their next meeting is Sept. 2, 8 a.m. in the Mural Room at Town Hall.