MOUNT DESERT — The Select Board has asked Police Chief Jim Willis to work with the public works director and harbormaster to develop a proposal for permit parking in downtown Northeast Harbor for residents of that area who don’t have access to private parking and, perhaps, for employees of downtown businesses.
“We are hoping to have more people living in apartments in the downtown area, and we’re looking for ways to accommodate them,” Select Board member Martha Dudman said at the board’s Nov. 15 meeting.
Willis said that once the Select Board decides such things as where and how many parking spaces should be set aside for permit holders and what the criteria should be for permit eligibility, Mount Desert could tap into the same parking management software that Bar Harbor uses.
“It has a permit module that is used extensively in Bar Harbor,” said Willis, who also serves as Bar Harbor’s chief of police. “It’s also fully integrated with our enforcement software, so the two work together really well. Our staff at the Bar Harbor Police Department manages that, and it would not be a big lift to incorporate Mount Desert in there.”
Currently, all of Mount Desert’s parking regulations are controlled by a town ordinance.
“I would envision updating the ordinance to state that all paid and permitted parking would be regulated by a Select Board policy rather than an ordinance,” Willis said. “That way, it would be easier to adapt and update if something pops up and you want to be able to fix it fairly quickly.”
Interest in exploring the possibility of permit parking was prompted, at least in part, by the College of the Atlantic (COA) building now under construction in downtown Northeast Harbor that is to house 15 students and two faculty or staff members. Plans for the building did not include enough parking spaces to satisfy ordinance requirements. But the Planning Board approved construction with the provision that no certificate of occupancy will be issued until COA secures the long-term use of at least seven parking spaces on private property.
“I would like to see COA fulfill that end of the bargain rather than us just taking care of it for them this way [with public permit parking],” Select Board member Matt Hart said.
“I would also like to see (permit parking) not focused on summertime workers, but on people who actually live in the area and need it.”
Board member Wendy Littlefield agreed, saying, “I think we should start with residents rather than employees.”