News Feature

Stonington
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, June 21, 2018
Town to tackle Atlantic Ave. parking

by Rich Hewitt

The town will try an aggressive, three-pronged approach to enforce the section of its parking ordinance that prohibits vehicles from blocking Atlantic Avenue which is a fire lane and the only route for emergency vehicles to get from the fire station.

The plan stems from a wide-ranging discussion Monday between selectmen, Fire Chief Ryan Hayward and Tony Bray, the owner of the Harbor View Store and Stonecutters Kitchen, located at the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Main Street.

The issue, which has been discussed several times in the past month or so, stems mainly from delivery trucks blocking Atlantic Avenue. This is not a new development, but Hayward raised concerns about it earlier this year, stressing that time is crucial on emergency calls and delays to fire trucks or other emergency vehicles could have serious consequences. The problem is greater this time of year because the store and restaurant are busier, which means that deliveries increase. According to Bray, he gets deliveries five days a week throughout the summer.

The town will tackle the problem through a combination of actions that all parties agreed might alleviate the problem. The town will: work with the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office to schedule officers during the busiest times for deliveries so they can enforce the ordinance and, if necessary, issue tickets; paint the pavement marking the loading zone as a no parking area, which will include one parking space that blocks access to the loading zone; and write a letter for Bray to distribute to delivery truck drivers and their managers, notifying them that the town intends to “aggressively” enforce its ordinance.

The letter might also include a note from Bray urging drivers to call ahead before they get into town to see if the loading zone is open. Firefighter Bill Shepard said that Bar Harbor uses that type of system. He said delivery trucks could call from the ball field to see if there were any trucks already in the loading zone. They could wait there until it was free and the next truck in line could drive down.

Bray said his staff is busy in the summer, but agreed the call system might be more effective. He also noted that part of the problem has to do with local residents and visitors parking in the loading zone, forcing the delivery drivers to double park, which then blocks the road.

“The biggest problem is going to be people in town,” he said. “My people [employees] know not to park there.”

Hayward agreed that the double parking was creating the biggest hazard for the fire department because it prevents their trucks from getting out of Atlantic Avenue. He endorsed the plan hoping it will address the double parking.

Town Manager Kathleen Billings said the town’s letter can’t suggest that drivers call ahead. It can only explain that the town will enforce its policy. But the second prong of the town plan will be to effectively mark the loading zone, which sits partially on the town road and partly on Bray’s property. Painting that area, similarly to the way the fire department has painted the area in front of the fire station might be effective in making people aware that they can’t park there.

Bray expressed some concern that the painted “no-parking” area will include parking spots that his early shift uses. The problem with that spot, however, is that it lines up with the loading zone and blocks the approach for delivery trucks coming onto Atlantic Avenue.

The enforcement component of the plan will involve rescheduling sheriff’s deputies so they can be in town during the busiest delivery times, according to Billings. Although the selectmen have previously discussed giving deputies some leeway so that they can warn offenders before issuing a citation, some have urged that the ticket carry a stiff fine. John Robbins initially had suggested a $1,000 fine, and on Monday, John Steed proposed the fine be $500. Currently, the ordinance sets the fine for parking violations at $50, a rate that is high compared to some other towns, according to Billings.

Paving on Atlantic Avenue was scheduled to be done this week, so the new lines should be painted soon, and the other parts of the strategy should be in effect shortly after that.

In other action, the selectmen approved Harbor Committee recommendations to increase the dealers fees from $4,000 to $5,000 and to increase the trash fee from $2,400 to $3,000. They also approved increases in the transfer station fees for asphalt shingles, from 5 cents to 10 cents per pound; and for demolition debris, from 10 cents to 20 cents per pound. Selectman Travis Fifield felt the jump to 20 cents was too steep and proposed an increase of 5 cents. Evelyn Duncan, however, noted that the fees currently do not cover the cost of disposing those demo materials. Steed agreed that the town should not subsidize the service and should charge at least what it cost to dispose those materials. They approved the jump to 20 cents per pound on a 3-2 vote (Robbins and Fifield opposed) after rejecting a proposal for a fee of 15 cents per pound.