Paid parking on Main Street in Sag Harbor?
That’s one option the Village Board is exploring as it grapples with the chronic shortage of spaces during the height of the summer season.
Contracting with a company that would provide an app-based parking system for Main Street and Long Wharf, which drivers could access via their cellphones, is one idea being floated. As part of that proposal, the board is considering limiting the municipal lot on Meadow Street behind Apple Bank to residents only.
Another idea being considered is to reinstitute parking fees that used to be required by the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals for commercial applications that could not provide the required number of parking spaces on-site.
Revenue from both sources would be earmarked to fix sidewalks, add bike lanes, and take other measures to make the village more pedestrian friendly.
“As we all know, parking 100 days a year in Sag Harbor is horrible, and 265 days a year it’s not so bad,” Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy said as the board discussed the issue on February 26.
Board members said it was obvious that there simply is no land left to develop for new parking, so new approaches need to be considered.
The initial plan calls for paid parking to be required from Memorial Day through Columbus Day from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The board did not discuss fees or time limits, although the mayor said there may be a mechanism in place to allow a 15-minute grace period for people who want to dash into a store to buy a loaf of bread, pick up a prescription or complete other quick errands.
“There still would be lots of free parking in the village, but the premium spots would be paid parking,” the mayor said.
The initial reaction from members of the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, who were briefed Monday on the proposal by the mayor, was lukewarm, at best.
Chamber President Lisa Field said members appreciated the fact that the mayor took the time to let them know what the village was thinking, and while they were supportive of the idea of using money to improve sidewalks and make the village easier to navigate for pedestrians, they were not excited about the prospect of paid parking.
“To be perfectly honest, most of the board of directors were not in favor of it,” she said. “In some places, that might really work. In towns like Newport or Nantucket that are just touristy, that makes sense. But people still live here and work here year-round.
“Our concern as a board,” she added, “especially those of us with retail stores, is that it is going to deter people who might want to run in to pick something up.”
She said chamber members would prefer to see the proposal rolled out on a limited pilot basis, perhaps on Long Wharf only or for only the months of July and August, when the village is inundated with visitors. “It’s going to take a lot of education for village residents,” she added.
The board also discussed the possibility of bringing back the parking fund for projects that cannot provide sufficient on-site parking.
Trustee Bob Plumb said he believed the village was already on thin legal ice.
“You can’t have zoning requirements that can’t be met,” he said, explaining that if the ZBA denied a request for relief from the parking requirements but did not offer an alternative, it could be successfully challenged in court.
Trustee James Larocca urged the board to tread cautiously. “I don’t think it should be seen as a matter of right … I need a variance because I’ve chosen to build a bigger building,” he said.
But Trustee Aiden Corish said playing hardball might have unintended consequences as well.
“For somebody who has a vested interest in a building on Main Street, for us to turn around and say, ‘Oh, by the way, here is a list of uses that is now disallowed,’ I just think that opens up a can of worms for us.”
Mr. Plumb and Village Attorney Denise Schoen agreed to explore the issue further and report back to the board.