Parsing the parking plan

BAR HARBOR — As Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “The only thing that is constant is change.”

The Permit and Paid Parking Policy passed by Town Council last week will require significant change to how residents and visitors park in Bar Harbor.

Municipal parking lots will be paid parking areas starting next month, and will no longer be a parking option for downtown employees, unless they want to pay. Though employees can obtain parking passes for free (if they are Bar Harbor residents) or $30 (if not), those passes do not allow access to paid parking areas.

Employees will park and walk from side residential roads designated as “permit parking areas.”

Resident Heather Sorokin, who co-owns a downtown restaurant, said at last week’s town council meeting that she is “concerned that there’s not going to be enough parking for employees and residents on side streets.”

The same goes for volunteers working at downtown locations that don’t offer off-street parking. “As a volunteer, where do I park?” resident Diane Vreeland asked at the meeting. “I’m going to have to hike [from a permit parking area] in other words.”

The Bar Harbor Town Band has a group of about 40 members putting on 18 concerts throughout the summer on the village green. Band representatives have begun meeting with Police Chief Jim Willis to understand their parking options within the new rules, said band conductor Brian Booher, who is also President of the Board of Directors.

“One of the challenges we face is some of the members of the band are not Bar Harbor residents,” Booher said. Though the band is funded by the town, it is unclear at this point whether that qualifies members as town employees.

Booher said as a Bar Harbor resident himself, he understands the parking issues the town is facing. “I want it to work,” he said of the paid permit and parking policy. He is confident the band will have a parking plan in place before the first concert on July 1.

All handicapped parking spaces will be free per state statute, according to Town Manager Cornell Knight. The time limit will also be doubled on handicapped spaces; handicapped spaces that have a posted two-hour limit, for example, will be usable for four hours.

There will be seven free 15-minute parking spaces around the downtown area for people doing business at the municipal building, post office, and the Jesup Library.

Several residents on permit parking streets have said in online discussion groups that they plan to utilize their resident permits to park on the street, leaving driveways free for friends and family to visit.

A few downtown residents have advertised renting parking spots downtown on their private properties. When asked whether parking rentals on private property is an allowed land use, Code Enforcement Officer Angela Chamberlain told the Islander, “I am looking into it with the town attorney.”

Becky Pritchard
Former Islander reporter Becky Pritchard covered the town of Bar Harbor and was a park ranger in Acadia for six seasons.
Becky Pritchard

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