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Brunswick business owners wary of proposed downtown parking changes

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Brunswick business owners wary of proposed downtown parking changes

BRUNSWICK — Some downtown business owners say they cannot stand to lose any more parking as a result of changes planned on Maine Street.

The town is planning to install two raised crosswalks on the street for increased pedestrian safety, Town Councilor John Perreault said. But doing so will require the removal of seven parking spots – a measure many business owners have now rejected.

As a result, the Master Implementation Plan committee is forming an ad-hoc committee with Councilors Margo Knight and Perreault to address the problems with the Brunswick Downtown Association and its members.

Perreault is the vice chairman and on the pedestrian and vehicular subcommittee of the Master Implementation Plan committee. Knight is the committee's chairwoman.

Perreault said he was surprised at the business owners' response in an Oct. 18 subcommittee meeting, because the town had already appropriated funds for the crosswalks last May. 

"The council voted and approved of that six to eight months ago," he said.

The council, however, has not approved the final plan and construction of the crosswalks, because that's what the Master Implementation Plan committee has been working on.

For the Oct. 18  meeting, Perreault said he thought residents and business owners would begin discussing the placement and design of the raised crosswalks.

But instead, he said, some business owners said they could not accept any further reduction in downtown parking, which brought the discussion to a halt.

One business owner, Susan Tarpinian of Morning Glory Natural Foods, said she would consider moving out of town if more parking is lost.

"We just can't afford to lose any more parking," Tarpinian said Tuesday. She said the downtown area has already lost several spots this year because of two other town developments.

If it gets any worse, she said, she would consider moving her grocery business, which averages about 400 customers a day, to Cook's Corner or Topsham.

"It's very hard to do business this way," she said.

Alisa Coffin, owner of The Great Impasta, said she surveyed 14 Maine Street businesses over two days after she learned about the proposed parking reduction. She said they all felt the same.

"Parking is always an issue," Coffin said Tuesday. "There are no funds available for a parking garage. I understand that, but we cannot continue to lose parking spaces."

The downtown area experienced a net loss of about 45 spaces this year, according to Director of Public Works John Foster.

First, Foster said, about 10 parking spaces on the north side of Lincoln Street were deemed unfit by the Fire Department when the town installed wider curbs, which made it difficult for emergency vehicles to pass. Parking on that side of the street had been available from April-November.

Then, the reconstructed intersection at the First Parish Church at the south end of Maine Street last spring caused a net loss of about 40 spots, Foster said.

In a positive light, the director of public works said five parking spots were added this year on Station Avenue, where a previously unused bus stop was removed.

When Station Avenue was built in 2009, Foster said 40 on-street public parking spaces were added. And in 2005, 15 were added along Park Row, three along Cumberland Street, and 17 to the town's municipal parking area when it bought a portion of the old NAPA Auto Parts lot.

Perreault said the raised crosswalks were proposed to address safety issues for pedestrians because of the road's width and oncoming traffic.

"It's not safe in the situation it is," he said.

Coffin said she agrees with the assessment.

"We have the widest Main Street in the state of Maine ... " she said. "'Nuff said."

But, Coffin said, there are other ways they can address the issue, including reducing the speed limit on Maine Street to 15 mph and installing speed bumps.

Knight and Perreault said they will address business owners' concerns in an upcoming meeting.

"As far as I'm concerned," Perreault said, "there is no time limit (on the process)."

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or dmartin@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.