GARDINER — City officials have reached an agreement with Gardiner Main Street for a short-term deal to expand parking on the city’s busy Water Street.

At the same time, they are helping the nonprofit organization to pay the property tax on the Gardiner Main Street site acquired in 2016 from Camden National Bank.

At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, elected officials voted to approve a six-month lease on the former Bailey lot, located on Water Street at the south end of the city’s downtown and to take on the responsibility of maintaining it.

As part of the deal to take on the former Camden National Bank properties, Gardiner Main Street agreed to pay the taxes on the property and parcels acquired. Since then, the buildings of the Dingley Block have been sold to developers. The lot, which was the site of some ground pollution, has undergone remediation and has been leveled. It’s now used for parking.

City Manager Christine Landes said Gardiner Main Street submitted a proposal to city officials after having a discussion about the non-profit organization’s ability to take care of the lot, particularly providing plowing during the winter.

The lease payments would help Gardiner Main Street pay the property tax on the lot.

Mike Gent, of the Gardiner Main Street board, said the lot costs the organization money, but is a good asset for the city to be able to use.

“The six-month term is meant to be brief enough that it gives all parties a chance to see if the arrangement is suitable,” he said, “and we’ll try to come up with a more permanent arrangement after six months.”

Landes said the city’s assessor has been working with Gardiner Main Street to get a tax exemption.

“This gives the city extra parking that’s safe and convenient,” Mayor Patricia Hart said.

As more buildings on Water Street have undergone redevelopment in recent years, parking is a concern.

Just about a year ago, the results of a 2019 downtown Gardiner parking survey were presented to the Gardiner City Council.

The analysis showed  Gardiner has adequate downtown parking for its needs at the time, but the demand was expected to become greater when vacant or underused buildings are redeveloped into residential, retail or other space.

Among the proposals presented for consideration were developing or buying parking lots and fostering partnerships with owners of private lots in and around downtown Gardiner to allow access during off-hours in exchange for either payment or services.

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