Brunswick council backs away from back-in parking

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BRUNSWICK — The Town Council has had enough of back-in parking at Maine Street Station.

Driving straight out of a parking spot is considered safer than having to back out, and the angled back-in parking was believed to create additional parking spots at Maine Street Station.

However, many residents and visitors have complained that back-in parking, where the driver stops in the road and backs into an angled parking spot, is difficult to do. Business owners say they answer multiple questions every day about the requirement.

Doug Lavalle, who owns Scarlet Begonias, said in an interview that he answers 100 questions a day from customers who are confused about the parking. “That’s no exaggeration,” he said. “If you have a busy day you field 15 to 30 questions.”

Joe Burns, who owns Burns’ Irish Pub, was even more abrupt when he spoke at the council meeting on Monday.

“This is a dumb idea. It needs to be reversed,” he said.

Burns said he has noticed that people often park on the lines because they can’t see where they’re going, which reduces the number of parking spots available in front of his restaurant.

Chairwoman Joanne King, who brought up the issue, couldn’t agree more.

“This has been nagging at me since a year ago,” she said. “We gave it an experimental phase and it failed.”

Since posting signs explaining that the lot is back-in only in October 2009, police have stepped up, then backed off enforcing parking violations.

King said she encouraged the Brunswick Police Department to be “kind and gentle” with ticketing in the beginning, but the volume of complaints led the department to ultimately not enforce the parking style.

“Because it’s never enforced, people don’t bother to comply,” King said in an interview.

Other councilors shared King’s dislike of back-in parking.

“We tried it, it’s just not working, and I think especially for the merchants in Maine Street Station we’ve got to change it,” Councilor Ben Tucker said.

“If we are not going to enforce it … then we have little choice but to remove it,” Councilor Suzan Wilson said.

But changing the parking style isn’t as easy as repainting the lines. The spots are angled for backing in, so switching to head-in parking would require a wholesale reconfiguration of the parking area.

Town Manager Gary Brown said he estimated the cost of fixing the parking spaces would be around $60,000. He said the Public Works Department could do about half of the work, but things like brick laying and paving would have to be contracted.

Brown said he would look into nailing down the specifics of the cost, and work with the council to set a public hearing on the change.

Dog park

In other business, the Brunswick Area Recreation for Kanines, received the go-ahead from the council to raise money for a dog park along the Androscoggin River bike path.

The council will take a formal vote on the issue once the group has successfully raised the approximately $50,000 needed for fencing, waste receptacles, signage and landscaping.

Police station

The council also voted to accept the police station subcommittee’s recommendation that a new police station be built at the corner of Pleasant and Stanwood Streets.

Brown must now renegotiate a price for the property, since the approximately $1 million agreement the town made with the owners last fall has lapsed.

A public hearing will be held April 4. The council will consider whether to accept a final offer at its April 11 meeting.

Emily Guerin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or