News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, September 21, 2023
Public parking poses perpetual problem

by David Avery

On Monday, September 18, the select board heard from several residents upset at the parking situation in town.

Town Manager Shawn Blodgett reported that he “gets it from all sides.” Maine Maritime Academy students complain that they are being targeted for parking enforcement, while local residents seem to think the opposite, he said.

One local business owner wrote an email, which Blodgett shared, expressing indignation that the traffic enforcement officer would ask her to abide by the rules.

Addressing the select board, town manager and traffic enforcement officer Scott Vogell, Johanna Barrett of Compass Rose Books on Main Street wrote, “this serves to tell you that I will be parking my car where I can in order to conduct business. I will do this as long as I need to,” in apparent defiance of any attempted enforcement.

She sarcastically expressed thanks for “making it so abundantly clear that as a town you are fundamentally uninterested in a viable retail sector and fundamentally unable to consistently and equitably enforce your own ordinances.”

The issue was revived during the public comments section of the meeting when Marc Pelletier asked if MMA has ever considered a shuttle to get students around campus so that student cars would not tie up all the available public parking.

“Why does the town have to serve as the academy’s parking lot?” he asked, rhetorically.

Vogell suggested that the only way to get compliance is to raise fines dramatically.

Blodgett said he had read minutes of meetings as far back as 2014 to understand the issue. Complaints like those currently being aired were also heard back then. He said that the town’s current traffic ordinance and enforcement practices are a product of what the town experienced then.

He added that the parking situation has improved with the loosening of some restrictions on upper Main Street and Court Street. He also said that residents violate the parking time limits too, not just students.

Acting board chair Gordon MacArthur said that the academy could do something about the parking issue, “but they have chosen not to.”

Discussion of what to do about the issued ensued, but no decisions were made.

In other car-related complaints, Vogell asked what the status was of the town providing registration services to folks from other towns. Residents of Penobscot can use the Castine Town Office to register cars and similar business.

Vogell said that they seemed to be abusing the arrangement, which has been in place for a while.

But because the town office in Penobscot is open only very limited hours, and because Blue Hill and Orland recently terminated their similar arrangements, Emerson Hall has been busy with such business, Town Clerk Susan Macomber said.

MacArthur promised the 16 or so present that “we will take some action to have it stopped.”

Other business

In other business, a general fund warrant and a water department warrant were approved for amounts of $94,618 and $16,637, respectively. Votes were 2-0. Board chair Colin Powell is traveling and was not present for the meeting.

Board member Roberta Boczkiewicz thanked those who participated in the Backshore Recreation Survey, which 77 people responded to. From the survey, the top three priorities of residents for the back shore beach were pond maintenance, trash cans, and permanent restrooms.

Boczkiewicz also reported that a bill that would provide money to Castine for upkeep of Fort George, which the state owns, was not funded by the appropriations committee of the state Legislature. She also said that it may not be dead if residents can get the governor to include it in her proposed version of a state budget. She urged residents to write to the governor if they wanted to see this money.

Kirk Langford, chair of the Utility Board, reported to the select board on the state of the town’s water and sewer departments.

A water leak on Court Street recently resulted in a significant loss of water, he said. It also brought to the fore the issue of aging infrastructure and unplanned expenses.

He also reported on recent relations with the golf club concerning the chemicals used on fairways and greens.

He added that the ordinances designed to protect the water supply in town assume voluntary compliance and reporting. The board does not want to do anything that would reduce such reporting.

Allen Kratz of Brooksville addressed the board to appeal for Castine’s participation in a Peninsula-wide effort to expand a community-based citizen science effort documenting effects of climate change. The board approved, 2-0.

The board also approved a recommendation from Blodgett that a long-standing consent agreement be amended. The agreement limits the number of bedrooms in the home at 47 Dyce’s Head Road. The agreement from 1995 says two bedrooms, but the current septic system in place is typical of three-bedroom homes, he said. The board approved, 2-0. The amendment limits the bedrooms to what the septic system can handle.

Blodgett thanked the Castine Fire Rescue Department for their efforts to keep people safe during Hurricane Lee.

Blodgett also reported that that soil tests taken at the site of the current fire station have been returned. He said that the report is 128 pages and will take some time to digest, but that all “hits” were below standards for action.

Bobby Vagt spoke to the assembled to invite everyone to a gathering to honor Dr. Marjorie Olivari for her 28 years of service to the community. The event will take place outdoors under a tent at the clinic on Court Street at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, October 3.

The next select board meeting is scheduled for Monday, October 2, at 4 p.m. at Emerson Hall.