BAR HARBOR — Parking will be free on the Fourth of July, the Town Council decided in a special meeting Monday night in a 6-1 vote.
This is the first summer that paid and permit parking is in effect in the downtown area. The emergency council meeting came after a notice was posted on the town Facebook page June 28 saying paid parking (meters and kiosks) would be enforced on the holiday, but permit parking areas would not be enforced.
The reaction from the public was swift, resulting in many Facebook comments and emails to councilors from people asking the town to suspend paid parking enforcement as well as permit parking enforcement.
Council Chair Jeff Dobbs called an “emergency” special meeting. “This is an emergency, because it was the only way I could legally call a meeting” before the July Fourth holiday, he told councilors.
The council normally meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month, the but July 2 meeting had been canceled.
Councilor Stephen Coston spoke against what he called “governance by outrage.”
“You have folks, generally a relatively small number of folks … [who] get very vocal on public platforms like Facebook, and then a policy that we made a couple months ago is all of a sudden [challenged],” he said. “I think the policy is pretty well thought out.”
Other councilors said they thought the plan all along was to have free parking on the Fourth of July.
Councilor Matthew Hochman also serves on the Parking Solutions Task Force, which drafted the paid and permit parking policy the council adopted this spring. He said he was surprised that the Fourth of July exception had not been written into the policy.
“To me this is less of a reaction to what people have been saying on Facebook or email, and more a reaction to a miscommunication [between] Parking Solutions [and] the council,” he said.
Councilor Erin Cough said it’s important that the two sides of the new parking system, paid parking and permit parking, are dependent on each other.
“I am a huge support of this paid and permit parking plan,” she said. “Having it all work together, to me, is incredibly important.”
She also said “the police department has better things to do” on the holiday, on which many thousands of people visit town, than to write parking tickets.
The motion to amend the parking policy to make the Fourth of July a free parking day was passed by a 6-1 vote. Dobbs, Hochman, Cough, Gary Friedmann, Joe Minutolo, and Judie Noonan voted in favor. Coston was the dissenting vote.
Town Manager Cornell Knight said the meters and kiosks will be programmed to say “Free Parking.” Payment by credit card or mobile app will not be accepted.