SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Selectmen on Tuesday took a big leap toward increasing parking near the downtown business district and a smaller step toward parking near the Manset Town Pier.
Town Manager Don Lagrange’s proposal to purchase a 1.05-acre property on Main Street at the intersection of Three Rod Road and make it into a municipal parking lot was met with enthusiasm from the majority of the board.
“I think this is a great idea,” said Selectman Chad Terry.
Selectman Dan Norwood agreed.
“For me, that’s a great opportunity for parking,” he said. “I think it could be a great addition to the town.”
The property at 376 Main St. is listed for sale at $375,000 and has a vacant home that would be torn down. Lagrange estimates it would take another $250,000 to $275,000 for site work. He said there would be 2-hour spots and paid long-term parking spots that would generate revenue for the town.
There could be other benefits of the lot, which is two blocks from the intersection with the Clark Point Road.
The additional parking could allow for the elimination of parking on one side of Main Street in the downtown, thereby eliminating congestion along the narrow road. Another potential its use is as a stop for Island Explorer buses, Lagrange said.
Selectmen took no action but did ask Lagrange to draw up a plan for the lot for discussion at a future meeting. Purchase of the lot would need the approval of voters at a town meeting.
On Wednesday morning, Lagrange said his preliminary layout for the parking lots shows that there would be 107 regular parking spaces, 12 for recreational vehicles and eight for motorcycles. The back of the lot would be gated, long-term parking. People using these spaces would pay at the gate with a credit or debit card. Lagrange said the cost most likely would be $10 for 24 hours of parking.
One selectman, Lydia Goetze, was not on board with the plan.
“I think we really need parking near the harbor and that is a greater priority than this,” she said.
Goetze raised the issue again later in the meeting, during discussion of other business. She called for the town to get an appraisal on the Hood property, which is adjacent to the Manset Town Pier.
The town leases the property from the Hook family for parking for $8,000 a year. Town officials long have been worried about what would happen if the family decided not to renew the annual lease and have made several attempts to buy the property without getting a response. Recent discussion about harbor issues and the creation of a harbor planning committee have led to efforts to make a serious attempt to buy the property. Goetze argued successfully that it would be best to approach the family with an offer in hand, based on the appraisal.
In a 5-0 vote, selectmen directed Lagrange to hire an appraiser at an estimated cost of $600.