Paid parking in Bar Harbor to begin May 15

BAR HARBOR — Parking meters and kiosks will be installed in downtown Bar Harbor in mid-May. On Tuesday, the town council approved the ordinance changes that will let the town start using them to charge for parking.

The plan has been in the works for several years. Voters at last year’s town meeting approved the purchase of the meters and kiosks.

Town Manager Cornell Knight said the parking meters will be delivered later this month, and the kiosks will arrive in early May. Most parking spaces on Main Street, Cottage Street and West Street will be metered. Parking in town lots will also require a fee, payable at kiosks in each lot.

Residents are not exempt from the parking fees, but anyone with a vehicle registered in Bar Harbor may obtain a permit for parking on residential side streets. Employees of downtown businesses will need to purchase an annual permit, which would allow them to park in the permit areas.

All the permits are based on license plate numbers; they will not be physical stickers or hang tags to identify the vehicle. They will be issued by the police department.

The permit and paid parking system will begin after the meters and kiosks are installed, in mid-May. In future years, the system will go into effect for the summer May 1.

At a packed meeting Tuesday, held in the Town Hill Village Improvement Society (VIS) Hall, councilors voted unanimously to adopt amendments to the Vehicles and Traffic Ordinance to allow the implementation of a permit and paid parking policy downtown.

In a second vote, councilors also voted unanimously to approve the permit and parking policy with modifications. The policy will take effect in 30 days.

The policy will require permit and paid parking seasonally from May through October, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon to 8 p.m. on Sunday.

The modification to the parking policy had to do with a situation that arises on Sunday mornings. During the public hearing, resident Ed Damm noted that many downtown churches do not have off-street parking sufficient for everyone who goes to church.

“I just really think that the town of Bar Harbor shouldn’t penalize or ticket parishioners,” said Damm. He suggested waiving parking fees on Sundays and Saturday afternoons to accommodate church goers. After some discussion, council agreed to waive the permit and fee requirement each Sunday until noon.

Heather Sorokin, a restaurant owner who is on the parking task force, said she had concerns about the $30 fee for employee parking permits.

“I don’t think we should be charging employees to come to this island to work,” she said. “It’s hard enough to find people to work here as it is.”

Sorokin was also concerned that the two-hour parking limit on some streets would be limiting for tourists. “It takes at least two hours to eat at my restaurant if there’s a 45-minute wait,” she said. “I’m hoping to make some modifications.”

Business owner Chris Strout agreed.

He supports the plan, he said, but is “concerned [that] there may not be enough kiosk parking for the types of businesses that require people to be downtown for longer than two hours at a time,” such as boat tours and rock climbing, he said.

Lieutenant Dave Kerns of the Bar Harbor Police Department said the parking plan is a work in progress, and the first year will be a learning experience.

“This is a policy and can be changed quickly,” Town Manager Cornell Knight said. He added that the police department will be implementing “soft enforcement” until problems get worked out.

Councilor Erin Cough said she hoped the parking plan would get people to rethink how they come to Bar Harbor. “The idea was to try to create a different mindset and a different type of behavior for parking,” she said. The plan may encourage people to ride-share, bus, or bike downtown.

Becky Pritchard
Former Islander reporter Becky Pritchard covered the town of Bar Harbor and was a park ranger in Acadia for six seasons.
Becky Pritchard

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