News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, September 5, 2019
Downtown, waterfront parking woes continue

Town business

From left, Chairman of Selectmen Peter Vogell discusses town business with Selectmen Colin Powell and Gordon MacArthur and Town Manager Sean Blodgett September 3 at Emerson Hall.

Photo by Anne Berleant Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Anne Berleant

Nearly 25 residents and downtown and waterfront business owners filled the selectmen’s meeting September 3, many who spoke of concerns over parking.

The subject is hardly new; each fall, as Maine Maritime Academy students return for the school year, the shortage of spaces for short- and longer-term parking for Main Street businesses and on the waterfront again becomes apparent.

The discussion was prompted by a letter from Captain Catch’s owner Deborah Wood, who wrote that elderly patrons of the waterfront take-out could not find parking close to the building, especially on Tuesdays and Thursdays when MMA waterfront lab classes are held throughout the day. Main Street business owners added that many students renting on Main Street assume parking comes with their lease, which is not true of public parking spaces.

Adding to the situation is the varied times parking is allowed in different parking spaces, which makes enforcement difficult, Parking Enforcement Officer Scott Vogell said, apart from the fact that not all spaces have proper signage. Parking times vary from 15 minutes to one hour, two hours, three hours, 24, 36 and 48 hours.

“This gets real laborious to enforce,” Selectman Colin Powell said.

Monthly town-and-gown meetings with academy officials has failed to adequately address the issue.

“So far, we haven’t been ale to find a way to make it work,” Selectman Gordon MacArthur said. “Hopefully, it will start to work.”

Town Manager Sean Blodgett noted three dozen parking tickets were issued last week. The fee for a town parking ticket is $30, compared to a parking ticket on MMA grounds, which is $50, and several people in attendance suggested the town match the academy’s fee.

“It’s getting people used to repercussions for parking illegally,” he said, adding that students feel “we’re targeting them” on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

To enforce parking full time would increase the cost to the town from about $9,000 annually to upwards of $60,000, Chairman of Selectmen Peter Vogell said.

He asked everyone present for suggestions, in writing, of possible ways to fix the problem, while more signage will be posted this week, as a short-term solution. He concluded, “The selectmen, and town manager and town office will get together and talk it over and see what direction we want to go in.”

In other business:

The Castine Garden Club requested permission to plant a balsam fir on the town common to continue Castine as a Tree City USA, to be addressed at the September 19 meeting, once a stake has been placed at the planting site.

Selectmen approved 3-0 the Witherle Memorial Library’s Maine Expansion Arts Fund Grant from Maine Community Foundation.

Selectmen approved 3-0 MMA’s annual request to close part of Pleasant Street during homecoming events on Saturday, September 21.

David Adams, of the Castine Historical Society, gave an update on the Maine bicentennial tall ships parade, that is scheduled to stop in Castine on July 13 or Bastille Day, July 14, during the town’s annual celebration.

Selectmen declined a request for a mooring abatement from a resident who moved his mooring to Brooksville in June but only now applied for the abatement. “In the case where a whole mooring has been processed, we haven’t refunded anyone,” said Financial Officer Karen Motycka.

Nonprofit organizations At Home Downeast and Tree of Life food pantry sent letters thanking the town for its contribution.

Selectmen next meet on Monday, September 16, at 4 p.m. in Emerson Hall.