December 13, 2017
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Task force undertakes parking garage feasibility study

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BAR HARBOR, Maine — A task force headed by Ruth Eveland, chairwoman of the Bar Harbor Town Council, and appointed by the Council, is studying the feasibility of using the town-owned Back Yard parking lot as a location for a parking garage. The Back Yard lot was purchased by the town in the 1960s. It is located behind the Criterion Theater on Cottage Street, and abuts land owned by Ocean Properties and its new West Street Hotel. Access to the Back Yard lot is through Lenox Place and Laurel Court, which also provide rear access to abutting businesses on Main and Cottage streets.

Following a public meeting in late May, at which both hopes and concerns about were detailed, the task force has developed 10 elements that must be incorporated in any successful parking facility:

1. Significant increase from the current 50+ town parking spaces in current Back Yard lot.
2. Provision in new parking facility for any on-street spaces lost due to anticipated improvements for pedestrians or to ease congestion in the area.
3. Provision in new parking facility of all parking spaces required by Ocean Properties for “full occupancy” of West Street Hotel, allowing Ocean Properties to use its current parking lot in ways that constitute greater economic return and increase property tax revenues for the town.
4. Continued or improved access to all current easement holders-abutters with land adjacent to existing town ways at Lenox Place and Laurel Court, with capacity for utilities, deliveries, trash removal and access for fire-public safety equipment.
5. Improved pedestrian access to Main Street, Cottage Street and Rodick Street.
6. Advancement of the town’s long term interests (social, economic, environmental, including reduced automobile congestion and increased pedestrian amenities).
7. Acceptable-mutually beneficial framework for public-private partnership for construction of parking facility and related amenities, including sharing costs.
8. Acceptable-mutually beneficial framework for public-private partnership to own and operate-maintain parking facility, including sharing costs and revenues.
9. No increase in property tax burden for businesses and residents in Bar Harbor as a result of project construction, operation and maintenance.
10. Broad public support for project, as positive vote at a town meeting would be required to approve any land transfers (gifts, purchases or conveyances) or other necessary actions.

The task force is seeking Town Council support for issuing a “request for qualifications” as a step in identifying a consulting firm to help study the feasibility of a parking garage, and potential partnerships with Ocean Properties and other willing business owners, and to draft preliminary plans for consideration by the town and its partners. Following review of qualifications, the task force will meet with one or more firms before choosing one, with which to develop a contract for the desired consulting services. Further public meetings will be organized by the task force before it makes any final recommendations to the Town Council.

The task force is reviewing how the potential parking garage may fit into long term strategies for improved parking throughout out the town, as recommended by a 2004 study of overall visitor and employee parking in Bar Harbor. Those strategies include continued reliance on the Island Explorer, which provides free shuttle service designed, in part, to allow visitors to keep their vehicles parked at hotels and campgrounds.