Parking in paradise

By Pete Bono

Consultants Bermello Ajamil & Partners Inc. (B&A) have recommended the installation of downtown parking meters along with the construction of a multi-level parking garage to solve Bar Harbor’s parking problem.

This large-scale bundling of solutions, they say, is necessary for the self-funding of the project by parking fees for both meters and garage. B&A insists that a parking garage alone is not financially feasible without additional funding from parking meter fees.

B&A justifies its two-pronged recommendation because it has worked in other towns and cities, so it will work in Bar Harbor. But B&A doesn’t understand that Bar Harbor is not just another town. It’s a quaint seaside community sharing its iconic island with one of the most beautiful national parks in the country. This is where the mountains meet the sea.

Bar Harbor is not Portland or Boston. It’s a magical place with all the charm of a Norman Rockwell painting, where 2.5 million tourists come each year to escape big city life. They don’t want to see big city parking meters and multistory parking garages in their vacation paradise.

Besides being aesthetically inappropriate, parking meters in Bar Harbor would be impractical and dangerous for both visitors and residents. The sidewalks of downtown Bar Harbor are so crowded in the summer that the addition of parking meters would cause endless obstacles to pedestrians, who would either hit them or be forced into the streets to avoid them, causing potential collisions with bicycles, motor scooters and automobiles.

B&A claims that property taxes will not be affected by their self-funded parking plan. Yet they say the town of Bar Harbor must “incorporate recommendations for increased enforcement into the budget process for the next fiscal year” and “establish a parking fund into which parking related revenues are deposited and against which parking-related expenses are charged.” Guess how the town will raise money if parking fees fail to cover parking expenses – right, raise property taxes for all residents and business property owners to fund their very expensive parking program.

Tom Walsh, owner of Ocean Properties LTD (OPL), says he will share the expense and use of a multilevel parking garage in Bar Harbor’s backyard parking lot, as it’s adjacent to his West Street Hotel and across the street from his Harborside Hotel. OPL needs more parking for guests. So it has negotiated sharing garage expenses with the town of Bar Harbor.

OPL “is one of the largest privately held hotel operating and development groups in North America, operating 107 hotels with 17,936 guestrooms.” They can afford it.

Donald Trump, another wealthy real estate negotiator, says he can build a wall and get Mexico to pay for it. It sounds like OPL wants to build a garage and get Bar Harbor to pay for it, along with the related installation and maintenance of parking meters all over downtown Bar Harbor.

The solution to Bar Harbor’s parking problem is obvious to me. If OPL wants to build a backyard parking garage for guests, let it pay for it in full and charge guests big city parking fees to maintain it. OPL can afford it and will be motivated to do so when town funds are unavailable.

The town should negotiate this solution with OPL, cancel all plans for ugly, impractical, dangerous and expensive parking meters, and develop adequate remote parking lots with shuttle service via the Island Explorer.

Pete Bono is co-owner of the Christmas Spirit Shop on Main Street in downtown Bar Harbor.


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