At 6pm on Wednesday July 20 at East End Community School, District 1 City Councilor Belinda Ray held a public forum about the possibility of introducing time-limited parking and resident parking permits in a specific area on Munjoy Hill.
Councilor Ray explained that she had received numerous concerns while running for office last fall about the issue of parking on Munjoy Hill. Hill residents continually provided her with feedback that they are frustrated because people who work downtown but do not live in the neighborhood are parking on Munjoy Hill and walking to work every morning, leaving their cars to occupy parking spots on the Hill all day. There are currently no time limits on parking on most streets on the Hill, creating an inexpensive alternative to paid parking at meters or garages downtown.
Ray commented that she had also received feedback that out-of-town visitors are also parking on the Hill and leaving their cars for days a time while visiting the islands. She said that the specific area that she has received the most concerns about is the zone between Sheridan and Atlantic Streets, bound by Congress and Fore Streets.
The meeting was held to answer questions and gauge the level of public support for implementing a time-limited parking program in a specific pilot area of Zone 4 on Munjoy Hill, which would limit street parking to 2-hour increments from 9 AM to 5 PM Monday through Friday, excluding holidays.
If implemented, all residents of the affected streets will be eligible to receive a free residential parking sticker exempting them from the hourly time restriction in their zone.
Residents would be able to obtain a residential sticker for free for the zone in which they live by visiting the Parking Division at City Hall (Room 20) between 7:30 AM and 6:30 PM Monday through Friday. Residents will need to complete an application and show a valid Maine driver's license verifying that their home address is within the zone and a valid vehicle registration showing proof or residency in the zone. In addition, all outstanding parking tickets must be paid in order to receive a sticker.
John Peverada, City of Portland Parking Manager, was also present at the meeting. Peverada explained that the city sent surveys to all property owners and renters in the affected area to assess the level of support for the program. The survey asked if residents would like to “leave parking as is” or “establish a residential parking zone with a two hour parking restriction on my street”.
Peverada explained that surveys can be returned until July 31, 2016. As of the meeting, only about 10% of surveys had been returned and of those, residents were split on the issue with about 50% responding in support of and 50% responding against the proposed program.
Wednesday’s meeting provided further evidence that residents of Munjoy Hill have mixed opinions on the topic. Residents of the same streets spoke both in support of and against the proposed program. For instance, there were comments from one resident of Sheridan Street that it was never an issue to find a parking spot on that street and then from another resident of the same street that it was consistently very difficult to find parking on Sheridan Street.
Other residents who do not have off street parking commented that they sometimes need to park a few blocks away and carry groceries from their car to their apartment because they cannot find a closer parking space. Suggestions were made to implement the program on a few but not all of the proposed streets and also on only one side of each of the proposed streets.
People also raised concerns that the new zoning on the Eastern Prom should be reconsidered, as new developments with 3 or fewer units are not required to provide off-street parking. People also raised concerns that the parking issue will continue to worsen when the new 58 Fore Street complex development finally begins and that the time-limited parking program may be a way to get ahead of this issue.
Another suggestion raised at the meeting was the provision of guest parking passes. Peverada explained that there would not be guest passes as people could potentially sell them. He said that providing guest passes would weaken the integrity of the program. Peverada explained that the time-limited parking program has existed in the City of Portland for more than 20 years.
Other areas of Portland that already have time-limited parking and residential parking permits include the West End as well as areas by Deering High School, the University of Southern Maine and the University of New England. The city of Portland has issued over 3,500 residential parking permits to date for those areas.
Peverada explained that the program would not be implemented without the support of the residents in the proposed area and was not surprised that opinions varied widely. He mentioned that right after time-limited parking was first introduced in the West End, a man came into his office who was very angry because he did not agree and did not understand the need. Peverada asked the man for his name and address, checked the surveys and found that the man’s wife had completed the survey that was mailed to them, indicating that she was in support of the new parking program. Thus, even within the same household opinions can vary.
If you live in the proposed area and have an opinion, please return your survey by July 31, 2016. You can also provide feedback by contacting City Councilor Belinda Ray at firstname.lastname@example.org and City of Portland Parking Manager John Peverada at email@example.com.