BRUNSWICK — Town Council approved a $5-per-day fee on parking at the Union Street parking lot near Brunswick Station at its regular meeting Aug. 7.

The fee comes at the request of the Master Plan Implementation Committee, which has been looking into parking issues and identified the Union Street lot as a spot that needs improvements. The lot, which is primarily used by commuters riding the Downeaster train or bus service, has been a problem area because some vehicles are left in it for weeks or even months.

“In April, with the Brunswick Downtown Association’s help, we brought together a group of downtown business owners and managers to talk about parking, and the problems they’re having,” said Margo Knight, chair of the Master Plan Implementation Committee. “This is a happy problem … but we don’t want this to turn into a problem where people aren’t visiting downtown.”

The fee, which would be enforced by Brunswick Police, is intended to discourage anyone who is not a commuter from parking in the lot.

“It’s a way to control parking, to make people think about ‘if I’m not taking the train, or the bus, I shouldn’t park here,’” said Knight.

It’s also a way to determine how residents and visitors react to the paid parking. With increased traffic in the downtown area, paid parking may become a solution to congestion problems.
Brunswick Police Chief Richard Rizzo said the current plan is to install a kiosk in the parking lot that would take cash, credit, or debit cards. It would cost about $12,000, and based on current lot usage would be paid back in a few months time, he said. It also comes with a computer program that can monitor the exact number of cars that are supposed to be in the lot, in addition to spots that have expired.

“People that pull in there and either don’t pay or are a long-term expiration, get a $50 fine for every day they’re parked in there,” said Rizzo.

Vehicles parked for a significant amount of time will be towed at the owner’s expense. Previously in the lot, Brunswick’s ordinances allowed for the ticketing of vehicles, but not the towing.
On the positive side for those who might be running late to get back to their car, the kiosk also has the ability to add payments from a mobile phone application.

Councilor Sarah Brayman said she objected to the idea of paid parking, based on the nearby proximity of free on-street parking and what she believes is too high a fee. “I just think $5 is just too much. It’s a solution looking for a problem. “I would rather see kiosks in town for pay by hour than in this lot.”

Despite her objection, council voted 6-2 to approve paid parking. The ordinance will take effect in early September.