BAR HARBOR — It was standing room only in the council chambers Monday afternoon, as residents and business owners concerned about the Paid and Permit Parking Policy packed a meeting of the town’s Parking Solutions Task Force.
The task force cannot make changes to the policy or the parking and traffic ordinance; instead, it makes recommendations to the Town Council. The council meets next on May 7, its last scheduled meeting before the new parking policy takes effect.
Despite concerns raised, the task force voted to recommend retaining two-hour parking spots on some downtown streets, and keeping parking enforcement hours at 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. The task force also voted to recommend waiving the $5 visitor parking fee charged to residents to allow guests of residents to park in permit parking areas.
Town Manager Cornell Knight also had a list of discussion points based on more than 20 emails he and other town officials had received.
Knight gave an update of the progress of the parking plan’s implementation. 100 signs are on the way, he said, to mark permit parking areas throughout town.
Parking meters are beginning to be installed. The online system to sign up for parking permits is currently being tested by town staff, Knight said. The town will make an announcement “about how this is going to work” when the system is ready for use, he said.
The paid and permit parking plan will cost the town $600,000 to implement, Knight said. That is expected to be paid off over five years. Any excess funds will go into a designated parking fund “to go toward parking solutions,” Knight said.
Chris Vincenty, owner of Reel Pizza on Kennebec Place, said that he expects the two-hour parking meters surrounding his business to negatively affect his customers.
“I have supported this parking plan right from the beginning,” he said. But with customers spending three to four hours in his movie theater, Vincenty said, “two hours does not fit my business model or my customers.”
Vincenty proposed ending enforcement at 6 p.m. or extending two-hour spots to four-hour spots to help his customers find suitable parking.
“If I lose one to two customers a night because they can’t park, that adds up to $30,000 by the end of the season,” he said.
Resident Claire Sasner asked the task force to consider free parking for guests of residents. Others in the meeting echoed that sentiment.
Jim Elk, who is a landlord of a year-round rental on Bridge Street, asked if the paid parking lot on the corner of Cottage and Bridge Streets, known locally as Casino parking lot, could allow permit parking for Bridge Street residents with no off-street parking.
“Bridge Street doesn’t have enough parking, and tenants have been using Casino parking lot,” Elk said. He asked if residents who live in areas surrounded by paid parking could “get a permit to park in paid parking areas.”
Mary Ropp, one of the organizers of the MDI Marathon, asked if the parking enforcement season could end earlier than Oct. 31. This year’s marathon will take place on Oct. 20, she said.
Residents also suggested adding a free 15-minute parking space in front of the police station to encourage people to drop off drugs to be discarded by police.
The $750 permit fee for Bed & Breakfast or vacation rental guests was also questioned.
One resident asked how people without computers should sign up for their parking pass. Town officials at the meeting suggested going to the library or using a friend’s computer.
After hearing all questions and concerns, the parking task force prioritized three suggested changes to vote on. Following discussion, a motion was made to recommend changing the paid parking hours from 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. to 9 a.m.-6 p.m. The motion failed 6-3.
Another motion to recommend making the 2-hour parking spaces into 4-hour parking spaces also failed, with a vote of 5 to 3 and 1 abstaining.
“I don’t think people clearly understand the volume of spaces that are available each day,” Eben Salvatore, who chairs the task force, said after the meeting, referring to that vote. “Two-thirds of [parking] inventory are over two hours.” The breakdown, he said, is 223 metered spots with a 2-hour limit, and 714 metered spots with no time limit.
A motion to recommend making the $5 visitor pass a $0 fee with a $2 transaction fee passed 6-3.
The parking task force agreed to meet once a month throughout the summer to discuss how the permit and paid parking plan is going.