BAR HARBOR — The Town Council gave Blaze and Arts and Ends a week to settle a dispute over the restaurant’s parklet, or else the council would take away one of the two parking spaces that was permitted to host outdoor dining.
Valerie Griffith, the owner of Arts and Ends, an antique store next to the wood-fire pizza place, came before the council at its meeting on Tuesday to complain about the negative effects caused by Blaze’s parklet, which extends in front of her store.
“The tables and the umbrellas set up in front of the building block people driving and pedestrians from the sidewalk across the street from being able to see my tenant’s antique shop,” said Griffith’s landlord Janie Whitney. “My tenant already had a very rough season last year due to the pandemic and now she is going to have another one, it appears, because of Blaze’s tables and umbrellas blocking the visibility of her business.”
Griffith said neither she nor her landlord were aware of the parklet program, which was enacted again this year to help businesses get more space, and she felt it marred the frontage of her shop and was unsafe.
“It’s ruined my curbside appeal,” Griffith told the council.
The council allowed businesses to use two parking spots for parklets and encouraged businesses to work out any disputes amongst themselves.
Eben Salvatore, a member of the town’s parking task force, had been trying to mediate the situation but a resolution had not been found.
Town Manager Cornell Knight recommended either ending the parklet program altogether or amending the policy to allow the council to take away one of the parking spots if there was an issue with an abutting business.
The council decided to go with the latter action, though they were split on it, voting 4-3.
The vote to take away one of Blaze’s spots was a 5-2 vote, with Erin Cough and Matthew Hochman voting against.
Joseph Minutolo, who voted in favor of both actions, said this type of situation was an oversight by the council when they set up the parklet program and he wanted to rectify it now before getting any further into this season.
“Valerie is a hard-working lady,” he said. “And I think that this needs to be done immediately.”
Hochman felt bad for Blaze, which had followed all of the council’s guidelines and put money into building a dining area there. The council brought up several options for ways it could negotiate a compromise, but Cough felt that it was not the town’s duty to arbitrate the issue.
If the businesses can’t work something out by June 22, the town will reduce Blaze’s parklet to a single space and reimburse the business for the material cost of half the parklet.
Salvatore said he would be in contact with Blaze, which did not have a representative at the meeting.
In other parking news, the council declined to raise parking prices for a portion of the meters to make up for the parking revenue lost to the parklet program. The Parking Solutions Task Force suggested increasing the price from $2 to $3 an hour for 223 meters in the core of town from July through mid-October.
Several councilors balked at the potential increase, though Cough, who is a member of the task force, said it was done to help incentivize people to take other modes of transportation in town.
The council instead asked the town manager to see if it is possible to use the parking at Conners Emerson School and the old ferry terminal this summer.