ROCKLAND — Residents and downtown business representatives gave their input Tuesday evening as the city studies parking issues, including whether paid parking should be imposed.

The business people expressed opposition to paid parking during the Nov. 2 public forum by the Rockland Parking Advisory Committee.

Council candidate Adam Lachman, who lives and works downtown, said the significant elephant in the room is the city’s consideration of paid parking.

“You need to balance the impact of any revenue strategy with access to parking,” he said.

He said that there are spaces in the Thorndike parking lot where people who use the Maine State Ferry Service park for weeks on end. This takes away parking for people who want to shop downtown, he said.

There were references made at the meeting to the possibility that the Maine State Ferry Service could build a deck of parking over its parking lot.

The Maine Department of Transportation is evaluating alternatives to increase the parking capacity at the Rockland terminal. Right now, the design phase of the project is the only part that is funded, DOT Director of Communications Paul Merrill said Nov. 3. One alternative being looked at is an elevated parking platform on the site, he said.

Lachman also voiced concern about pedestrian safety on Main Street, particularly north of Limerock Street. There is also a concern about a lack of sufficient handicapped parking spaces, Lachman said.

Council candidate Penny York suggested the city look at trying to buy part of the parking lot on Water Street that was previously used by Boston Financial Services.

Allison Worden of Arctic Tern Books said paid parking is “pretty upsetting,” to her. She said it would change the nature of the city and hurt downtown businesses.

Jamie Connell said the city should look at reopening Oak Street, claiming that the space was under-utilized “if used at all,” this past summer. She also complained about having allowed Cafe Miranda to use a portion of the parking lot between Oak and Orient streets. Cafe Miranda closed during the past summer.

Katie Dolan said she is not interested in paying for parking. She said there is a lack of signage of where parking is available.

David Gogel, executive director of Rockland Main Street, spoke during the Nov. 2 forum, saying parking was a complex issue downtown. He said there is the need for restaurants to have outside dining but also a need for spaces for employees to park.

He said the number one complaint from downtown businesses is noise. He said vehicles rev their engines as they drive downtown.

Councilor Louise MacLellan-Ruf, who oversaw the Nov. 2 meeting, said is concerned about downtown employees getting parking tickets for overtime parking when spaces have been taken away. She said the city made “knee jerk reactions” during the pandemic that reduced parking spaces. That is when the city allowed restaurants to use parking spaces for outside dining.

A Masonic Street resident said parking is not free in that it takes up valuable space. He said downtown should be more focused on pedestrian safety. He said paid parking would be a first step.

The city rents out spaces in the Custom House Parking lot to businesses for $40 per month.

The city contracted with John Burke for $20,000 to conduct the downtown parking study. The study will look at the amount of parking available and the amount needed for the area between Union and Main streets as far north as North Main Street and as far south as North Street. The study will also look at White Street near the Rockland Public Library and Summer Street between Union and Lincoln streets.

The City Council had met with companies prior to the pandemic about installing parking meters. In January 2022, the Council discussed paid parking downtown.

Gogel said after that January 2022 meeting, a survey on Jan. 21 with 44 responses found 69 percent of downtown businesses oppose paid parking downtown, and 62 percent of businesses felt it would have a negative effect on their businesses.

The goal of paid parking is to generate non-property tax revenues that would be used to repair crumbling roads and sidewalks.

Currently, much of the downtown has two-hour parking limits. Motorists who park longer may be ticketed.

Burke said at the Nov. 2 forum that most people can find parking downtown within a short walk. He said the percentage of turnover of two-hour parking is poor.

The Maine State Ferry Service parking area in Rockland. Photo by Stephen Betts