By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
If there were a week that the Fair Haven decor shop Shutters Cottage Home needed its parking lot open, it was the one following Thanksgiving.
Unfortunately for owner Christine DeVincens, the start of her Christmas-season shopping rush was muted a direct result, she says, of construction work being done on River Road.
As contractors take on biting weather while trying to wrap up Fair Haven’s River Road streetscape project, there’s frustration mounting within the business district related to parking and safety.
What’s more frustrating to DeVincens, though, is the lack of communication between the borough and its businesses.
Until Monday afternoon, when the blockage was removed, Shutters’ front parking lot was closed to customers for eight days, she said. Why?
“I don’t know,” DeVincens said. “These are some of the questions I have.”
She called state, county and borough offices with her questions, but didn’t get any answers. A county spokesman told redbankgreen that it is not involved in the project. Fair Haven Mayor Mike Halfacre said Shutters’ lot was supposed to be closed off for three days, but bad weather nearly tripled that. The same thing happened not too long ago, near the fire department, because of rain, he said.
“That’s unforeseeable, unfortunately,” he said. “I know it’s an inconvenience for everybody and a loss of revenue, for sure. But it’s going to be a dramatic improvement (when it’s done).”
DeVincens said the business’s bottom line suffered as a result. Some customers told her they were under the impression that Shutters had closed.
“Our customers are upset, we’re upset, our neighbors are upset,” DeVincens said. “This is our busiest time of year and they shut us down.”
Shutters does have limited parking in the rear of the building. In the front, where there are now five spots, the streetscape renovation will take one spot away for safety reasons, DeVincens was told. There’s never been an accident in the 12 years she’s operated there, she said.
DeVincens is not the first merchant with gripes about the way the project is being run. Across River Road, at Krauszer’s, owner Tony Akbar, who had part of his driveway blocked by curbing without notification, said there was an accident in front of his store Sunday evening, and he’s witnessed a handful of cars run into the new curb.
Halfacre said residents have complained about the work and traffic, as well.
The upside is that the clog on River Road will soon be cleared, Halfacre said. Workers are wrapping up the installation of sidewalks, and will be moving on to putting in new street lamps and benches. That work, he said, will take a few months, but should not interfere with any business.