SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Neighbors to a proposed municipal parking lot on Main Street turned out Tuesday at a selectmen’s meeting to express their displeasure with the plan.
“Southwest Harbor is a very pretty village,” said Gretchen Strong, whose property abuts the 1.05-acre parcel under consideration. Building a parking lot along Main Street would change that character of the town, she said.
Strong pointed out that a municipal parking lot above the town office is underutilized. “I don’t think you need more parking,” she said.
Another neighbor, Katrina Willette, said she objected to the “light and sound pollution” the lot would create. Like Strong, she questioned the need for more parking when the other municipal lot is rarely used. The proposed lot also is too far from the downtown, she argued.
“The other piece is people don’t want to walk that far,” she said.
The property in question is at 376 Main St., about two blocks south of the intersection with the Clark Point Road. The property is listed for sale for $375,000 and has a vacant home that would be torn down for the parking lot. Selectmen discussed the idea at a meeting earlier in the month and directed Town Manager Don Lagrange to develop a more detailed proposal.
According to Lagrange, the lot would have 41 free three-hour spaces, 38 paid long-term spaces, seven RV or tour bus spaces, as well as parking for motorcycles and racks for bicycles. There would be space for the Island Explorer bus to stop. The lot would be used seasonally, from May through October, so no snowplowing or other winter maintenance would be required.
Lagrange estimates the cost of purchasing the property and constructing the lot at $551,000.
Along with the anticipated revenue from paid parking and the possibility of a $2,500-per-space impact fee for businesses that wish to expand but don’t have the necessary land on which to increase parking as required by ordinance, there is another benefit to the lot, according to proponents. Parking along Main Street in the downtown could be limited to one side, eliminating congestion and making travel safer for motorists and pedestrians, they have said.
Lagrange suggested parking on Main Street could be limited to 20 minutes, a move which would compel many people to use the new lot.
Willette’s husband, Ryan Willette, voiced another concern about the parking lot. As the father of two young children, he said, he doesn’t want the lot to become a meeting place for drug dealers, “one more spot to transact whatever dirty business is to be done.”
Selectman Tom Benson assured him that police would patrol the lot. Lagrange said security cameras could be installed.
Lagrange also addressed concerns about lighting at the lot, saying that it could be directed in such a way that there is no spillover onto adjoining properties.
Selectmen made no decision about the lot Tuesday; the proposal is to be discussed further. How construction would be financed has not been determined. Voters at a town meeting would have to approve of the purchase before construction could begin.