MOUNT DESERT — The Planning Board last Wednesday approved College of the Atlantic’s plan to construct an apartment building at 141 Main Street in Northeast Harbor with 15 bedrooms for students and two bedrooms for faculty or staff.
But the college must find at least seven off-site, off-street parking spaces for use by residents of the apartments on a permanent basis.
Since plans for the project were first unveiled last fall, the only concern expressed by residents, downtown merchants or Planning Board members has been about the number of on-site parking spaces proposed.
COA’s architect and engineer for the project have said there is enough room for only three spaces behind the building, with access from Tracy Road. One of the spaces would have an electric vehicle charger and would be reserved for a van to shuttle students between Northeast Harbor and the COA campus in Bar Harbor.
Another space would be reserved for handicapped drivers.
That would leave just one on-site parking space for non-handicapped residents.
The Planning Board said COA could go ahead and construct the building, but it would not be issued a certificate of occupancy until it showed proof that it had leased or otherwise secured the long-term use of seven privately owned parking spaces in town.
Construction is expected to be completed by next summer.
Millard Dority, COA’s director of planning, buildings and public safety, said he has been working to locate off-site spaces to lease, but so far has been unsuccessful. But he indicated he thought the parking requirement that the Planning Board attached to its approval of the project was reasonable.
However, he and project engineer Greg Johnston maintained that the students who live in what is being called the College of the Atlantic Mount Desert Center are likely to need very few parking spaces.
“If we have 10 total spaces for 17 bedrooms, that’s well over 50 percent of those rooms having drivers, which is double the percentage the college has now [at the Bar Harbor campus],” Johnston said.
He said only 18-24 percent of COA students typically have cars at school.
Dority added, “Even if every student [who lives in NEH] has a car, there is more than enough parking for them on the Bar Harbor campus.”
And he said they can easily get back and forth because COA plans to have an electric van dedicated solely for that purpose.
In addition, a small COA bus will be available to shuttle between the campus and Northeast Harbor at times when the Island Explorer buses aren’t running.
With only 15 students living in Northeast Harbor, Dority said, “The bus won’t be full by any means, so we would also offer other Northeast Harbor residents the chance to go back and forth. We’re hoping the students will be viewed as residents of the town, as well.”