Brunswick councilor: Bowdoin College student parking makes neighborhood unsafe

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BRUNSWICK — An overnight parking ban for nonresidents is being considered on Page Street, in reaction to Bowdoin College students apparently using the street for long-term parking.

The Town Council on Tuesday scheduled a Feb. 2 public hearing on a resident permit policy similar to one recently implemented on nearby Longfellow Avenue.

The issue may spark a larger debate about downtown parking regulations.

Councilor Jane Millett, who sponsored the Page Street proposal, said many vehicles, some with out-of-state license plates, have been parked along the narrow street for days at a time. 

The parking congestion is creating a public safety hazard by obstructing access for fire trucks and ambulances, Millett contended.

“The Longfellow situation was a matter of convenience,” Millett said. “This is a matter of safety and emergency access.”

The problem has become pronounced after recent snow storms, Millett added, because snowplows did not fully clear the street. Vehicles are now parked further away from the curb.

Town Manager John Eldridge said town-wide parking bans were not declared in recent smaller snow storms, so vehicles did not have to be towed.

Resident Emily Swan, who said she has lived on Page Street for 26 years, said there has always been a lot of college parking on Page Street. “We’ve always taken it as a given that our street was pretty much a Bowdoin parking lot,” Swan said.

But that changed last autumn, when Bowdoin amended its on-campus parking rules to prohibit students from long-term parking near student residences on Park Row, requiring them to park near Farley Field House instead.

Since then, Swan said, Page Street has been filled with vehicles that park for days on end, even though there are only three apartment buildings in the neighborhood, and none house students.

Because of the vehicles, municipal services like leaf blowers, street sweepers and snowplows haven’t been able to clear the street, she said.

A visit to the street Wednesday morning revealed at least a dozen vehicles parked, almost all with out-of-state license plates. Several also had Bowdoin College bumper stickers.

There are currently no parking restrictions on the street.

Swan said an overnight ban is preferable to a two-hour parking zone, since it would target long-term parking without hampering people who use the street for daytime parking.

“If the students can’t park there overnight, the utility of our street as a long-term parking lot for them is lost,” she said.

Bowdoin Senior Vice President Catherine Longley on Wednesday said the college is aware of the situation and had been working with the town to have it resolved. 

“We notified students in December that they were causing a problem, we asked them to move, but we don’t have any jurisdiction there,” Longely said.

Although Millett wanted the council to vote on the regulation Tuesday, town attorney Stephen Langsdorf pointed out that the town has not given a 10-day notice of public hearing required before enacting an ordinance.

Millett eventually agreed to wait until next month to act on the ordinance, but insisted that the safety concerns merit immediate attention. 

The Police Department could enact a temporary parking ban, or the Public Works Department could prohibit parking to remove excess snow, but it was unclear as of Tuesday evening whether either of those options will be pursued.

The Page Street problem led some councilors to call for a comprehensive discussion on downtown parking and to discuss the problem with Bowdoin.

Overnight student parking problems are likely to metastasize to other neighborhoods near the college even if the Page Street issue is settled, Councilor John Perreault predicted.

“I think Bowdoin students have just as much right to park in a parking spot as residents of Brunswick,” Perreault said. Instead of enacting new parking regulations street by street, it should be examined throughout town, he added. 

“This is going to keep happening all over the place,” Perreault said. “We need to look at this as a big picture and move this forward.”

Councilor Suzan Wilson agreed. “It brings up the issue of how we look at parking in general on our residential streets,” Wilson said. 

Peter L. McGuire can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or pmcguire@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter @PeteL_McGuire.

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The scene Wednesday morning on Page Street in Brunswick, where residents claim Bowdoin College students using the street for parking are creating a public safety hazard.

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