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‘SWAT Team’ eyes fine increases, other ways to deter parking hogs in downtown Brunswick

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Shoppers and pedestrians make their way up Maine Street in Brunswick Tuesday April 17, 2012. Brunswick has been named one of the 20 best small towns in America by Smithsonian Magazine.
By JT Leonard, The Times Record

BRUNSWICK, Maine — It’s called the Ad Hoc SWAT Team on Parking.

If that sounds like an overstatement, you’ve never tried to back out of a Maine Street parking space at 4:30 p.m. on a snowy weekday.

Committee members who want to free up parking spaces for Maine Street business customers are considering increases to overtime parking fines, designating some parking spots 30-minute-only zones and relocating spots where business owners and employees park.

The goal is to get all daylong Maine Street workers to park in off-street spots visitors don’t know about, saving on-street parking for retail and transient traffic.

It’s not about getting a huge chunk of empty space in one location, but to get a few spaces in many different areas, said Lisa Coffin, a panelist who owns The Great Impasta restaurant.

The committee meets weekly with seven official members, including Susan Tarpinian, owner of Morning Glory Foods; Debra King, executive director of Brunswick Development Association; town councilors John Perreault and Margo Knight; and Brunswick police Capt. Mark Waltz.

Reworking the parking schemes is just one part of Brunswick’s master plan for making downtown more friendly for pedestrians and shoppers.

Other ideas: raised crosswalks along Maine Street, widened bike paths or sidewalks and, potentially, an open-air parking garage.

Right now, most of Maine Street is two-hour parking, intended to encourage shoppers to come and go frequently. But some say the fine for exceeding the two-hour limit — $5 per infraction — is not deterring people from hoarding spots for parking.

“Brunswick is the only town between Bath and Portland with $5 parking fines,” Coffin said. “It’s quite a deal.”

Fines are slated to jump to $15 per violation by the end of 2012.

Other ideas include relocating a parking lot and pick-up spots for commuter bus riders, which opens up six spots. Some municipal staffers already are parking in the Hawthorne School lot at 46 Federal St. and walking to the town office building at 28 Federal St., a few blocks away.

That alone would open up 10 more spots, Coffin said.

When the new police station opens at Stanwood and Pleasant streets next year, 15 more spots at the Federal Street lot will be available.

Additionally, two parking spaces at the end of each of the four busiest downtown blocks will be re-marked 30-minute short-term parking, likely by spring.

Once these measures are in place, the committee will stand back and watch what happens, “which will help us to figure out if what we’ve done is helping the situation,” Coffin added.

Then the committee may change its name to one that’s less provocative. Or not.

“Actually, that name seems to be sticking,” Coffin said. “We’re not a super formal group. We’re just trying to come up with some solutions.”

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