BELFAST — City councilors at their May 3 meeting approved the first reading of an amendment to a traffic and vehicle ordinance that will prohibit parking on one side of the High Street in front of Waterfall Arts. They also agreed to expend up to $43,500 more for financial assistance to displaced Penobscot McCrum employees.

The ordinance amendment is intended to address safety issues posed by cars parking on both sides of High Street in front of Waterfall Arts during the Friday farmers market, when parked vehicles crowd the area and cause safety hazards, Planning and Codes Director Bub Fournier said.

Parking along the lane closest to the bay will no longer be allowed from the intersection of High and John streets to the intersection of High and Field streets, he said. Councilors also approved a clarification of the ordinance that prohibits parking on the bay side of High Street in front of Belfast Variety, which is up the road north of Waterfall Arts.

Truck traffic along the road, when it is crowded with parked cars, adds to visibility issues, Fournier said. Interim Belfast Police Chief Dean Jackson said the department gets complaints when cars are parked on both sides of the road at Waterfall Arts. It narrows the road to about one lane that makes two-way passage difficult.

Councilor Paul Dean said people have a tendency to drive faster than the 25-miles-per-hour speed limit on that area of High Street and it is a potential hazard for young children getting out of a parked car who might run into the road. The decreased visibility adds to that danger.

Councilor Neal Harkness said in 2019 former Mayor Samantha Paradis wanted to ban all parking in bike lanes along High Street in the downtown area but the council at the time ultimately decided to take the issue on a case by case basis. Councilors did not want to ban parking in bike lanes in front of City Hall and Waterfall Arts.

Waterfall Arts has lost some parking spaces in its parking lot because of its remodeling, City Councilor Mike Hurley said. There are 50 parking spaces on Waldo Avenue, which is on the backside of Waterfall Arts. However, Councilor Mary Mortier said those spaces are usually filled up during the farmers market.

Hurley said he has ridden his bike in that area of High Street during the farmers market and it “gets tight.” For him, sharing the road goes both ways; bicyclists and motor vehicles need to share the road with parked cars, as well.

“To me, if the idea that when we have bike lanes is that no one can ever park in that … area, well then that’s not really sharing the road,” he said. “That’s like reserving the entire road for either cars or bicycles and you know to me parking is part of that sharing the road.”

There will be a second reading on the amendment at the April 17 City Council meeting.

In other business, councilors approved transferring $43,500 into the Keep the Faith Fund for additional $500 checks to the 87 Penobscot McCrum employees displaced by the March 24 fire that destroyed the company’s complex. The city is processing a GoFundMe payment that is over $53,000, according to City Manager Erin Herbig.

She said it is an appropriate time to send out the second round of support checks so those people can pay rent or other bills typically due at the beginning of the month. The first round of $500 checks went out to McCrum employees in early April, soon after the fire.

The city received about $66,000 from public donations within a couple of weeks after the fire to support those displaced employees. The city continues to accept donations for the Keep the Faith Fund.

Hurley thanked the public for the donations, which were pouring in. “At one point I was walking around and people were just handing me checks,” he said. “It was really heartwarming.”

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