Rockland council OKs controversial parking permit plan

Posted March 13, 2012, at 10:32 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — After nearly a year of debate, the Rockland City Council approved a permit plan Monday night that supporters say will deal with a tourist-season parking crunch.

Critics said, however, that the ordinance approved at the council meeting will only push the problem to other streets.

The council voted 4-1 to give final approval to an ordinance that establishes a residential parking permit plan for Granite Street, which runs between Union Street and Broadway. Mayor Brian Harden voted against the plan.

The ordinance allows residents to get permits to park on Granite Street in excess of posted time limits. Those residents can also obtain guest permits.

There is no charge for the permits.

Any vehicle that is parked on Granite Street between 1 and 4 a.m. without a permit will be ticketed.

Cheryl Michaelsen of Granite Street voiced support for the ordinance. She noted that overflow parking from the nearby Maine State Ferry Terminal is a problem from late May through October, when people visits the islands by ferry.

She noted that someone from out of state parked their Mini Cooper on Granite Street for the entire summer last year and there was nothing the city could do. She said there are many days when residents can’t find a parking space in front of their homes because of island visitors parking their vehicles there for days, weeks or months.

Eric McClure of Granite Street said the parking problem was bad on the street during these months. He said something had to be done but acknowledged that the ordinance before the council would likely push the parking problem to adjacent streets.

And that argument was what led residents of other nearby streets to turn out to oppose the permit plan.

James Collins of Willow Street voiced opposition to the permit plan.

“It’s reasonable to expect the police to protect and serve. It’s reasonable to expect the police to patrol the neighborhoods without looking to see who doesn’t have a permit,” Collins said.

Jerry Sharp of Fogg Street urged the council to reject the ordinance.

“This isn’t solving the problem, it’s pushing it to other streets. It’s human nature that if you stop me here, you will go there,” Sharp said.

Sharp and other residents urged the council to instead lend their support to an agreement being worked out between the Maine State Ferry Service and RSU 13 to provide satellite parking at the parking lot of Oceanside High School East in Rockland.

Michaelsen said satellite parking will not work because people will not want to park that far away from the ferry terminal when they can park nearby and walk. She said people have parked there for many years and the parking is free, rather than having to pay at the terminal lot.

Virginia Manning of Talbot Avenue said the permit plan would open a Pandora’s box, would be inconvenient to residents and not welcoming to summer visitors. She said it would be kinder to direct the motorists to the satellite parking location.

Last summer, the council considered a parking permit plan for a wider area of the city near the ferry terminal, but a majority of residents turned out to criticize it.

Adele Grossman Faber, a former city councilor, voiced opposition to the ordinance.

“Instituting residential permit parking on one street will only spread the problem, not solve it,” Faber said.

Faber said two taxi companies have offered to provide reduced fares for people who park at the high school to go to the ferry.

She maintained that an agreement reached between the school district and ferry terminal in 2007 worked for that summer, but the deal was not extended. She said the council failed to follow up and work to continue the agreement. She said if the council had acted last summer, the agreement would be in place again this year.

Mayor Harden said he was voting against the plan.

“The cure is worse than the problem. This will not solve the problem but will result in over-regulations,” Harden said.

Councilor Eric Hebert said the ordinance would not exclude satellite parking.

Councilor Elizabeth Dickerson, who sponsored the ordinance, said satellite parking would not work without enforcement. She said some people do not want to pay for parking at the lot and that it was not generally due to lack of parking at the terminal. She said she supports satellite parking.

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