SWH parking plan is on hold

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — A plan to buy a Main Street property and build a municipal parking lot is on hold after selectmen decided Tuesday to table the issue.

Town officials were considering buying a 1.05-acre property at 376 Main St., known as the Murphy property, and converting it into a parking lot. The property is listed at $375,000. Selectmen last month had Town Manager Don Lagrange develop a detailed proposal for the parking lot.

At a selectmen’s meeting Tuesday, Lagrange urged the board to hold off on making an offer for the property. Voters would have to approve the purchase at a town meeting, and it would be unfair to the seller to have to wait until the annual meeting in May to learn the outcome, he said. A special town meeting could be called with short notice, he said, but the small number of voters these meetings typically draw might be problematic. The plan could be shot down by a small number of opponents in attendance.

“I really don’t think you have the momentum or support behind you,” Lagrange told selectmen. “I think you should have a wait-and-see attitude.”

A group of neighbors to the proposed parking lot attended a selectmen’s meeting last month where they expressed their concerns about the plan. Their concerns included noise, lighting and the difficulty of driving in and out of the lot into Main Street traffic during the busy summer months.

Chairman Tom Benson agreed with Lagrange that it would be best to wait.

“I feel it’s a shame to pass on this, but I agree with Don,” he said.

One of the points raised during previous discussions of the parking plan was that the municipal parking lot above the town office was underutilized. Selectman Lydia Goetze said an effort should be made to get drivers to use this lot.

Another issue has been that employees of downtown businesses are parking in municipal lots and taking up spots that could be used by local customers and tourists. Selectman Dan Norwood opined that business owners should be proactive in solving the parking problem.

“We need to impress on the local businesses that they need to get their employees out of the center of the town,” Norwood said.

Selectmen agreed by consensus to table the further action regarding the Murphy property.

On Wednesday, Lagrange said the purchase could be back on the table next year.

“It it’s still on the market in the spring, we’ll bring it up for the [annual] town meeting,” he said.

In his proposal for the parking lot, Lagrange estimated the cost of buying the property, demolishing the existing buildings and constructing the lot at $551,000. The lot, which would be used seasonally, from May through October, would have 41 free three-hour spaces, 38 paid long-term spaces, seven RV or tour bus spaces as well as parking for motorcycles, racks for bicycles and a space for the Island Explorer bus to stop.


Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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