SOUTHWEST HARBOR — When the town responded to neighbors’ concerns for traffic around Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound following a mid-July meeting, it ended up making things worse.
“When we made the changes, there were consequences we had not anticipated,” new Police Chief John Hall explained to members of the Board of Selectmen during their meeting on Tuesday. “The traffic in there became haphazard. It was very obvious that the ‘no parking’ had created more of an issue. It was too much, too quick, too soon.”
There have been further changes to find a compromise and some ‘no parking’ signs remain, but Charlotte Gill, who owns the Seawall Road restaurant, said the reactive changes made “in the middle of the night, in the heat of the season” were damaging.
“We’ve lost 50 percent of our business,” she added in a statement made during the board meeting. “Today, I shut my business so I could come here. This is my busiest day.”
Several neighbors attended a mid-July meeting to voice concerns about parking along the side of the road near the restaurant. One neighbor said she had a view of mayhem from her front porch and watched families crossing the road in blind spots, motorists stopping for deer and large vehicles moving through at high rates of speed.
During the meeting on Tuesday, Gill voiced her frustration regarding the town’s actions to address the neighbors’ concerns without informing or consulting her.
“Had we known that there was such a conflict, we would have worked to try and find solutions before we were right in the middle of our season,” she said. “We don’t want to be bad neighbors. The whole point of the creation of the place was to make the world a better place, believe it or not.”
Since his initial solution fell short, Hall has since consulted with both Gill and the Department of Transportation regarding improving the parking situation in the area.
“We talked about a whole range of possibilities, suggestions,” he told the board, adding that a DOT representative had visited the area. “While we were out there, he made a lot of observations, good and bad… There are a lot of options for that area to make it safer.
“My recommendation is to leave it the way it is and allow us to present a formal recommendation as far as an ordinance change. If we leave it the way it is, it gives us a chance to come up with a plan.”
Prior to Hall’s explanation of what had been done and what more he was doing to improve the parking situation, Gill had asked that things be left the way they currently are through the end of this season. She pointed out that as far as she knows, there has never been an accident around that restaurant since the 1970s. Gill has owned it for the last 10 years and Charlotte’s has become somewhat of a destination after Gill’s method of sedating lobsters with marijuana smoke before cooking them made international news.
A new addition to Gill’s staff this season is a person who monitors parking around the restaurant.
“We’ve hired a full-time parking person who’s literally watching those tires on the white line,” she said. “We’re fixing something that I’m not sure needed to be fixed. It needed to be adjusted.
“I want to come up with real solutions and I think we can do that. I’m asking that you leave it as the chief has made it now until we can have further discussion.”
One member of the public asked the chief if he thought it was safe to keep allowing people to park on the road the way they do.
“Safe is not the word I would choose to use,” said Hall. “It needs improvement.”