Item one on the August 5 Stonington selectmen’s agenda sounds like a repeat of many meetings held this summer season: Bayview parking issues.
However, it wasn’t only parking on Bayview Street that kept the selectmen occupied; the discussion ultimately covered parking at Sand Beach as well.
Parking in Stonington always boils down to physics: two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time.
At Sand Beach, that has led to double parking, which at times makes the road impassable for trucks, such as fire trucks or ambulances. There is room for about eight cars; when those spaces are full, people park further along the road, on both sides—wherever they can squeeze in. According to Town Manager Kathleen Billings-Pezaris, that poses a real danger in case of a medical or fire emergency.
In discussion with the selectmen, she said she was really rethinking the lease, which, in exchange for the town’s payment of insurance and tax abatement, the family owning the beach allows the town to use it. She says enforcement of the parking along the road is a “nightmare.” It is already posted, and people ignore the signs.
She said that at town meeting the idea of foregoing the lease could be brought up. Other ideas include hiring someone to ticket parking offenders, but the problem with that, the selectmen agreed, is that out-of-towners just ignore tickets.
Towing one or two cars at a time doesn’t seem to affect the general practice of parking at the beach. People have been towed, but others continue to park there.
Another parking hotspot, one which has gotten a lot of the selectmen’s attention this year, is parking on Bayview Street.
The latest complaints have to do with whether parking in front of one’s house is a given right, or if it’s up for grabs. Six or seven people showed up at the selectmen’s meeting to make their cases.
The residents on a street, in this case Ray and Ellen Dinsmore, thought they were entitled to park in front of their house. The parking ordinance on which they based that belief refers only to “overnight” parking. Still, thinking that they were entitled to keep those spaces for themselves, they have called a tow truck to remove cars in “their” space. That has put them in conflict with those, including some who work on Isle au Haut, who want to park on the street. George Lyons, who was at the meeting, had his vehicle towed. Because the town had not had it towed, the $100 he paid could not be refunded by the town, even if it had wanted to. It was not clear whether he would get his money back, or from whom, assuming his car had been there legally.
Asserting that parking on a public street is public, Bill McDonnell came to the meeting along with several men whom he takes in his boat to do construction work on nearby islands. He parks on Bayview Street, but brings the crew with him, eliminating three or four more cars from competing for space. He said that he is there at about 6 in the morning, and usually returns by 5. Often, he says, there is no one there when he leaves his truck.
However, if the Dinsmores have a renter who appears in the afternoon, there may be no space for his or her car.
After much discussion, there were three issues that continued to bubble to the top: who owns the road, whether owning a house on the road brings with it a reserved parking space, and when is it appropriate to call a tow truck.
The selectmen decided that the town owns the road, and is the only entity that can call a tow truck to remove a car in the road; the only assertion of special privilege has to do with overnight parking, which is already in the ordinance.
Both McDonnell and Gene Koch criticized the policy of having a private citizen call a tow truck. Agreeing with them, Billings-Pezaris reiterated that the only time a private citizen has the right to call a tow truck is if a car is either blocking their driveway or parked on their property.
In other business, Billings-Pezaris passed out a sheet detailing the tarring work left to be done this year. There is about $80,000 left of the $150,000 budget. The remaining work will be done on Pumping Station Road, the transfer station road and the area around the building there. Child’s Road will not be done until the work behind the Town Hall is completed—if there is money left in the budget.
The road connecting the Pink Street lot and the area behind the Town Hall, to be used only when there are either elections or public hearings on the second floor of Town Hall, will be built. A complaint from Jeff Boyce, a Pink Street resident, that the proposed road was too close to his house and property line has been resolved. An additional survey to the one done for the town came to the same conclusion—that land he had assumed was his belongs to the town of Stonington.
The last bit of business on the agenda concerned McKinley the cat, a rather scruffy-looking half-grown cat which has taken up residence in the Town Hall. After pointing out that the office staff is anxious for the cat to remain (and that the cat’s homely but charming appearance has not led to its adoption by prospective owners) Billings-Pezaris said it was all right with her if the office staff took care of feeding the cat and keeping the litter box clean. She added that the cat would not cost the taxpayers anything.
After a token protest by Selectman Chris Betts that the name McKinley is the name of the old high school in Deer Isle, the selectmen voted unanimously to allow the cat to remain.