No parking on Reny’s end of Depot Street, board rules

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

There’ll be no parking allowed anytime on either side of Depot Street from Reny’s to the Community Center, and no overnight parking allowed in the municipal lot, Bridgton Selectmen decided Dec. 27.

In their unanimous vote, the board rejected recommendations by the Community Development Committee, which suggested that cars could be allowed during the day on the Community Center side of Depot Street. The committee also wanted the town to allow overnight parking for six cars in the municipal lot, so that residents of two apartment buildings could keep their cars off the narrow side street to help with snow removal.

“I took a look over there,” after the item was tabled at their last meeting, said Selectmen Paul Hoyt, “and it seems there is some parking on both sides of the building” for one of the apartment buildings, while the other has its own designated parking. The apartment buildings are owned by Chuck Renneker, a member of the Community Development Committee.

Board Chairman Art Triglione Jr. said the Planning Board has consistently ruled that if downtown property owners want to rent out apartment space, they need to provide their own parking.

“We already said no to the Wales & Hamblen building (in Pondicherry Square) and I don’t think we should be establishing a precedent,” Triglione said.

Selectmen agreed the Reny’s end of Depot Street is too narrow to allow for parking, especially near the jutting end of Reny’s store close to Main Street. The board agreed to have no parking signs put in place on both sides from Main Street to the Corn Shop Brook bridge.

Prior to their vote, Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz pointed out that allowing some parking on the street would foster a sense of economic vitality as envisioned when residents gathered a few years back for a charette to brainstorm revitalization ideas. But Selectmen Doug Taft noted that when the nearby elementary school lets out for the day, schoolchildren make heavy use of the sidewalk on Depot Street, and cars often drive up over the sidewalk when they park.

The municipal parking lot has some spaces reserved for Down East, Inc. and selectmen agreed the lot’s use should stay as it is until the town decides whether to turn over the Community Center building to the nonprofit entity. A part, or all, of the town’s portion of the parking lot may figure in some way with that transfer agreement, they noted.

Public Works Director Jim Kidder said the street is only 20 feet wide, and would be safer as a one-way street.

Berkowitz said he will be in touch with Renys’ officials to inform them of the no parking rule, which will need to be written into the town’s parking ordinance and brought back to the board for final approval.

In other action, the board agreed to use a combination of TIF money and state funding to extend the sidewalk on Portland Road to the Greater Bridgton Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce building next to Hannaford. The extension work would coordinate with Hannaford’s plans to build a sidewalk at its northern entrance this coming spring.

“If Hannaford is going out of its way for the town of Bridgton (to improve pedestrian safety), than we’d be remiss” not to do the same, Taft said. Kidder said the town plows the existing sidewalk to where it now ends and additional plowing costs would be negligible.

The board also agreed with the Investment Committee’s recommendation to rebalance portfolios in the town’s Moose Pond Land Trust and Bridgton Land Trust by transferring $27,000 and $19,000, respectively, in order to stay within the target balance policy of 40% bonds, 60% stocks. Following the vote, Selectman Hoyt suggested a future discussion be held on the possibility of increasing the 4% rule for drawing on the trust funds.

That drew a quick challenge from former Selectman Earl Cash, who said the 4% rule was arrived at after much debate and, if increased, could lead to the assets’ decline.

Berkowitz agreed, saying, “If you stick with that (4%) rule, you’ll never decrease your endowment.”

But Hoyt said Bridgton faces a tough budget year coming up and noted that the trust funds took a big hit from 2008 to 2009, losing a total of over $300,000.

The 4% rule also came up during a preliminary discussion of a policy to administer the $68,000 in timber harvesting funds raised to date through management of over 180 acres of town-owned forests. The money is sitting in a money market account with no guidelines for use, Berkowitz said.

The town has a “Town Forest Trust Fund” document that has never been implemented, and the board agreed to study and revise the document at a future meeting, when absent Selectman Woody Woodward could be present.

Cash also pointed out that the town also owns 100 acres of gravel-land in South Bridgton that could be managed as an investment property, and that the woodlots won’t be available for harvesting again for another 10-15 years.

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