HALLOWELL — The City Council will hold a public hearing on Monday on a proposed paid overnight parking permit policy seeking to provide parking for downtown residents in off-street municipal lots.

Public comment will be heard at 6 p.m. on Monday at the Vaughn Homestead Pavilion during the monthly City Council meeting. This hearing was scheduled at the council’s Aug. 13 meeting.

The plan — which would have $100 enrollment fee — is designed to increase participation in the city’s emergency advisory program and raise money to maintain parking lots.

The proposed plan would change overnight parking hours to 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. Residents would also have to show proof of residence in the downtown district. The sticker would grant overnight access — starting 8 p.m. with no guarantee for a spot — to the Perley’s Lane lot, Bulkhead lot, a lot on Water Street next to City Hall and the yet-to-be-built Central Street lot.

City Manager Nate Rudy’s proposal said the number of stickers would likely be limited to 45, which is half of the 90 parking spots in those lots.

Rudy described the plan at the Aug. 11 City Council meeting as an “outreach program.”

“This really is, in a lot of ways, an outreach program and a way of getting these residents on our NIXLE system,” Rudy said. “So if we need to move for plowing, or if there’s a flood, or if there’s some other reason why (the police department) has to contact them … that we have them on a registry.”

NIXLE is a program used by the Hallowell Police Department to send alerts to residents who enroll in the program. The last alert, sent on July 17, was about parking restrictions for Old Hallowell Day. Other advisories include flood warnings and winter parking ban notices.

This winter, an unexpected ice jam caused flooding at many downtown businesses and destroyed 20 vehicles on Wharf Street.

Rudy said in an Aug. 10 memo to the City Council that a permit program is in use for downtown residents and employees during ongoing construction on Water Street, but it struggles with participation. The program was similar to the proposed program in the sense that emails were sent with parking information and public safety alerts. He said it “set a precedent” for future programs.

Aside from outreach in the case of an emergency, Rudy said during the Aug. 13 meeting, the program would also help maintain the spots downtown.

“It’s a limited resource and that there is a cost to the city for maintaining it,” Rudy said. “And to basically ask the folk that use it the most to pay a little extra to maintain those facilities.”

On June 11, the council amended the city’s Code of Ordinances to say it was unlawful to leave a vehicle in a city-owned parking space in excess of 24 hours, down from the previous 72-hour limit. After 24 hours, a notice would be posted on the windshield of the vehicle. If the vehicle was not moved within 24 hours after the notice is posted, it may be towed.

City Manager Nate Rudy said in the Aug. 10 memo that the change was made “recognizing that there are limited occurrences of chronic abuse of these parking spaces, and that downtown Hallowell businesses will benefit from higher turnover of these spaces for use by business patrons.”

Rudy’s suggested permit policy was spurred by a letter sent to him by Will Furber, the owner the Row House on Second Street.

Rudy said Furber has tenants who have two cars, but his 10-unit building only allots one spot per unit. Rudy said Furber’s request for city-provided parking fit anecdotal knowledge that parking spot availability is a “challenge” for downtown residents.

“It seemed like a reasonable request and the downtown off-street parking lots seem adequate to be parking for those folks,” Rudy said at the Aug. 13 City Council meeting.

Councilor George Lapointe said he wanted city officials to look into limiting parking time to only a few hours in some lots to make sure visitors have access to spots during normal business hours.

“If (I) show up at 9 at night on a Thursday, I could be there until Friday night until I’m in violation,” he said.

Lapointe also said this permit plan could bunch up parking at those one or two of the designated parking lots, but Rudy said there is nothing in place now to stop residents from doing that.

Councilor Kara Walker said limiting municipal lots for shorter amounts of time would help increase turnover, but would require extra signage.

“If we want people to get out more during the day, we need to post signs where we limit our municipal parking lots,” she said.

Lapointe moved to approve Rudy’s draft policy and to direct the city’s Protection Committee to review parking time limits in municipal lots. He, at the request of Councilor Lisa Harvery-McPherson, later amended his motion to table the policy until next meeting and hold a public hearing. That motion was passed unanimously.

Mayor Mark Walker said competition for parking is for residents, business owners and their employees and visitors to businesses. He said he did not support various parking time limits downtown but was not opposed to the permit system.

“As you get more specific, 12 hours here, four hours here, two hours here, we’re going to have a utility district for parking with three employees,” he said during the meeting. “I will be the first one, with Councilor Harvey-McPherson, to veto that in the budget.

“I don’t want it to get that complicated and that’s where you’re leaning,” he said.

Walker urged councilors to take time and see how the parking situation evolved. He said parking may not be a problem when construction is done on Water Street, the Central Street lot is finished and the future of parking on the railroad tracks between Central Street and Winthrop Street is more clear. He said that temporary lot could still be available from Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) crews leave town after reconstructing Water Street.

“They can’t guarantee we keep those (spots) but it doesn’t sound like they’re going to do anything to take them away until another part of (Maine Department of Transportation) says we need those back,” Walker said. “We may be spending a lot of time and energy on a problem that may not occur.”

Rick Seymour, a resident who served on the Parking Committee, said if he came home from work as a permitted parker and did not have a reserved spot, he would be frustrated.

“I’ve paid $100 and I can’t find a place to park because all of the municipal lots are full,” he said. “I expect to have a parking spot.”

Rudy said there would be no solution to that problem except for creating a private parking lot, which he called “another layer of Hell.”

Aurilla Holt, owner of Berry and Berry Floral on Water Street, said the city has always manage to make parking situations work and the city should wait on for further parking-related options.

“I don’t think we should be addressing it now,” she said Tuesday. “I think we’re jumping the gun.”

Holt said that she had no problem with residents and employees being herded into the off-street lots because she thought only patrons of businesses should use the spots lining Water Street.

“I don’t think tenants should park on the street,” she said.

Holt said that if residents had to pay for parking that a spot should be reserved for them.

Sam Shepherd — 621-5666

[email protected]

Twitter: @SamShepME

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