To the Editor:
Finally, after years of trying to solve downtown Bar Harbor’s seasonal parking problems, the town’s Parking Solutions Task Force has come up with a fair, affordable and flexible plan for residents, business owners, employees and visitors.
On June 6, Bar Harbor residents will vote on it at their annual town meeting, as part of the warrant’s Article S – Parking Meters. You can read the Parking Solutions Task Force final report at www.barharbormaine.gov.
The town’s parking plan is fair to residents because it’s not funded by property taxes. Instead, it’s funded initially by a bond issue investment of $400,000 for downtown parking meters and kiosks that will pay for itself in two years.
After that, excess operating profits, estimated conservatively at $500,000 per year, will be available to self-fund more in-town parking lots, more satellite parking lots with shuttle service and more village improvements to sidewalks, streetlights and streetscapes.
As the demand for seasonal parking increases with increasing visitors, the extra supply of parking spaces will be made available without stealing spaces from residents and without future funding by local property taxes. Also, no parking garages are included in the plan.
The town’s parking plan is free for residents. Any resident of Bar Harbor, including outlying Bar Harbor villages, will get a free parking sticker for each vehicle registered in Bar Harbor. These resident stickers can be used in the many streets of downtown Bar Harbor designated as “resident only” parking and in “resident only” spaces located within the metered spaces and public lots.
Residents also can get a free visitor parking pass for friends and family during the busy tourist season.
The benefits to residents are significant: free downtown parking in many reserved locations without competing with tourists, a huge increase in available seasonal parking reserved for residents, more police department enforcement to ensure resident parking availability with additional police personnel paid for through parking revenues, and many future parking and street improvements for our town not funded from property taxes.
The town’s parking plan is fair to business owners and their employees because, like residents, they’ll have their own “employee only” all-day parking spaces throughout town without competing with tourists. Any employee showing proof of employment will receive a seasonal parking permit for $30. Any employer may also purchase permits for their employees, which is much cheaper than paying local real estate taxes on a private parking lot.
Finally, the town’s parking plan is fair to visitors who are accustomed to paying for parking. They’ll appreciate the improved access to a scarce public resource at a reasonable rate of $1.50 to $2 an hour depending on location. They’ll have convenient payment options of cash or credit cards at modern, state-of-the-art parking meters along Main, Cottage, Mount Desert and West streets, and Firefly Lane, or at equally equipped parking kiosks in any of the town’s eight public parking lots.
Any visitor averse to paying for parking has the option of leaving their car at their hotel, inn or B & B, and taking the free Island Explorer buses.
I believe that over time, the town’s parking plan will significantly reduce downtown traffic and congestion for the benefit of all users.
Each sleek parking meter will accommodate two parking spaces for less visual and pedestrian flow impact and to best fit in with the charm and character of our village.
All meters and kiosks will be removed in mid-October and re-installed in mid-May. As a resident and business owner, I’ll be voting in favor of Article S – Parking Meters at the upcoming annual town meeting. I encourage you to do the same.