BRUNSWICK — In a decision some speakers predicted will open either “Pandora’s box” or a “can of worms,” the Town Council on Monday narrowly approved issuing resident permits for overnight parking on Longfellow Avenue.
The 5-4 vote followed nearly an hour of discussion about the amendment written by the Brunswick Police Department to the town’s parking ordinance. The amendment offers a compromise for a concern that has often occupied the council’s time.
“I’ve been on the council for six years and I’ve talked about this issue more than anything else probably,” Chairman Benet Pols said after the vote.
Under the new rule, residents of Longfellow Street will be able to purchase up to two parking tags allowing them to park overnight on the street, which runs through the Bowdoin College campus.
Each tag carries an annual $25 fee and must be displayed on the rear view mirror. Tags are not vehicle-specific, so residents will be able to share them with guests.
Police have worked with residents since September, through a survey and public workshop, to reach an acceptable compromise, police Capt. Mark Waltz told councilors.
“I feel very comfortable saying that the majority of people who have weighed in support this,” Waltz said.
But residents and councilors alike warned the move could lead to demands for similar pay-to-park programs in other neighborhoods.
The town placed a ban on overnight parking on Longfellow Avenue more than a decade ago in response to complaints about college students leaving their cars overnight.
Some residents complain that the ban penalizes them by preventing their overnight guests from parking on the street.
Jill Pearlman, a Longfellow Avenue resident, said there have been instances when her guests and family have had their cars ticketed.
“The police do their job on Longfellow, sadly,” Pearlman said in an interview outside the meeting, adding that she does not have enough space in her driveway to park more than two cars.
But Connie Lundquist, another Longfellow resident, disagrees with the permit scheme.
Residents already have the option to tell police in advance if they have a guest parking overnight, Lundquist said, and Bowdoin allows residents the use of a nearby parking lot. Switching to permits now sets a dangerous precedent, she warned.
“I think you’re opening up a door you don’t want to open with permit parking in Brunswick,” Lunquist said.
Some councilors agreed with Lundquist’s assessment, and pointed to other potential problems with the permits.
Councilor Jane Millett said she is concerned that people would park on both sides of the street, leading to traffic problems. Councilor David Watson shared that concern, and noted that too many cars could create an obstacle for emergency vehicles.
But others, including Councilors John Perreault and Sarah Brayman, questioned if allowing permits on Longfellow would open the way for residents to agitate for new parking rules in their neighborhoods.
Councilor John Richardson, stating his “strong philosophical objection” to a pay-to-park program, said the Longfellow Avenue rules would make permit parking across Brunswick “inevitable.” He asked the council to investigate how serious an issue Bowdoin students’ use of the street is before making a decision.
The Police Department expects residents of nearby streets to raise similar questions, which is why the ordinance is written broadly enough to include them if needed, Waltz acknowledged.
Councilor Steve Walker, who represents Longfellow Avenue on the council and brought the matter forward, admitted the ordinance sets an “unfortunate precedent” for pay-to-park, but insisted it is a reasonable compromise that maintains the ban on student parking.
Perreault, Watson, Brayman and Richardson voted against an amended measure, which would have required the police to monitor the new policy and report back to the council in January 2016.
A car drives along Longfellow Avenue in Brunswick on Tuesday. Councilors approved an ordinance amendment allowing Longfellow residents to purchase permits to park on the street overnight.