Houlton to poll business owners, landlords about parking issues

8 years ago
HOULTON, Maine — In January, when Nancy Ketch, community development director and grant writer for the town of Houlton, heard that police Chief Joe McKenna regularly received complaints about the parking situation in downtown Market Square, she resolved to do something about it.

Downtown business owners have complained about losing sales at times because shoppers have such difficulty finding available parking spots near their stores.

During a council meeting in January, however, McKenna said that he has determined that the downtown spaces are mostly being taken by employees and business owners who want to park in front of their stores and have a quick walk from car to shop.

Ketch told councilors on Monday evening that town officials are working with the downtown parking subcommittee to conduct a stakeholders study to get a better idea about how many people live and work in the downtown, how many own cars and the number they own, and how many employees in the downtown use their cars to get to work.

“We are going to talk to downtown business owners and landlords,” Ketch said on Wednesday. “And then we are going to start counting cars. That will help us see what spaces are being filled and when. It will take a little bit of time, but it is a situation that needs to be addressed.”

According to Ketch, there are 175 apartments in the downtown, with 77 parking spaces in Market Square and 27 spaces from Main Street up to Broadway. In the entire downtown, however, counting the parking lots available near the courthouse, on Mechanic Street, and at the Houlton High Education Center, which also is considered part of the downtown, there are more than 500 spaces.

She said that the biggest problem seems to be parking along Main Street and Broadway.

“Part of the issue is that people just don’t like to walk,” she agreed. “Some say it is not a problem. But if even one business owner says that a person called them and said, ‘I tried to get into your store last week and there was no place to park, so I went home and ordered the item online,’ then it is clearly a problem for that store owner.”

Most of the parking spots in the downtown have a two-hour limit, and one idea that is being considered is to make some more spaces long-term parking spots.

In order to pursue grant money for that and future projects, the town is working to update its 2005 downtown revitalization plan. Both the downtown and the parking subcommittee continue to meet regularly.