Portland waterfront panel seeks parking remedies

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PORTLAND — Window tags and stricter enforcement of zoning rules are two methods the city may use to help preserve waterfront parking for people working in marine-related jobs.

“We would be looking for better marking and signage, and we would be looking for mechanisms to enforce it,” city Waterfront Coordinator Bill Needelman said April 11 at the Waterfront Working Group meeting in City Hall.

The 10-member group has long identified parking on Commercial Street and the piers as a primary problem for marine-related uses. The 2010 creation of an overlay area in the Waterfront Central Zone also added specific parking spaces outside the zone dedicated to marine uses.

As an example, all pier-side spaces and several spaces on the building side of Merrill’s Wharf near Pierce Atwood are marked reserved for marine use.

Spaces beyond the public lot on Widgery Wharf are also marked, but fishermen have long complained the rules are not actively enforced.

Parking is not regulated inside the overlay zone, where public parking lots have existed since before the 1987 creation of the Waterfront Central Zone. Needelman noted city options can be limited for addressing pier parking violations, as they are private property.

Harbor Fish Co. owner Mike Alfiero said better signs are needed on Custom House Wharf, while adding he is looking for parking places off the waterfront for his staff and would then shuttle them to work.

Lobsterman Willis Spear, who also operates from Custom House Wharf, said at a minimum, signs should be marked “fishermen only from 3-5 a.m.,” to note the unique hours they work.

City Manager Jon Jennings said some remedies could come by prioritizing parking for marine-related uses at Angelo’s Acre lot on the inland side of Commercial Street.

The lot sits between Park Street and the Casco Bay Bridge and has about 100 spaces, city Parking Manager John Peverada said. At $5 per day, the lot is now a low-cost option for people working in the city, and is also used by island residents, he added.

Peverada also cautioned that Angelo’s Acre fills up quickly in the summer. There is also the possibility of using spaces in the front lot of the Portland Fish Pier nearby, but those would only open as permits were relinquished.

The lot is also an overflow site for the Pierce Atwood staff, Needelman said.

Since January, Jennings has also advocated creating special windshield display tags for boat crews that would allow unlimited parking in spots near the waterfront.

Jennings envisions allowing two per boat, distributed as captains see fit.

Where the parking would be allowed remained at issue, as the city would not want to lose income from the 191 metered spaces along Commercial Street.

“The thing to do is convert some of the unrestricted spaces to permit parking only,” Peverada said.

Unrestricted, or unmetered, spaces exist toward the Casco Bay Bridge and beyond, and Jennings said there are unused spaces on both sides of Commercial Street near the bridge.

The group also had reservations about issuing tags, seeing the potential for abuse of the system. Spear said he would probably give them out daily if available.

The parking discussion will continue when the group resumes April 25, including potential enforcement ideas Needelman said needed to be on a separate agenda.

David Harry can be reached at 780-9092 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Parking is designated for marine users and others outside the Pierce Atwood building on Merrill’s Wharf in Portland.

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