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Summer Otisfield residents are unhappy with 'no-parking' signs
OTISFIELD — No-parking signs at the intersection of Shore and Silvaqua roads, erected by the town to prevent unsafe congestion of vehicles, are being opposed by long-time summer residents who claim the signs are unnecessary.
At the June 19 selectmen meeting, residents said the signs force homeowners to park in locations that are "far more dangerous" than in front of the properties.
Patricia Schreiber, who lives at 63 Shore Road, which intersects with Silvaqua Road, said she's unhappy with "the several no-parking signs placed at the end of Silvaqua."
"It's forcing homeowners, now, who have parked on the road ... for many, many years, to park in areas that I feel are more unsafe than in front of their properties," Schreiber told selectmen.
The town decided to install no-parking signs at the intersection last fall after hearing complaints from summer residents who worried about traffic congestion – and potential accidents – with cars that are parked in the right-of-way, Chairman Hal Ferguson said.
Phil Corneliusen, who lives at the north end of Shore Road, at last fall's meeting, said the intersection is particularly dangerous when vehicles attempt to pass one another.
"I go around the corner of Silvaqua Road and Shore Road frequently," he said. "And quite often, there are vehicles parked in the northbound lane of Shore Road right at the junction – so really, it is reduced to a one-lane road."
At the time, Corneliusen and selectmen shared the concern as to whether emergency vehicles can squeeze by cars in the intersection to respond to fires and other emergencies.
"The problem isn't the speed limit," which is 45 mph, Ferguson reiterated at the June 19 meeting. "It has to do with it being congested."
Schrieber explained she has owned her property on Shore Road for six years and has never seen the intersection congested. "Where is the documentation?" she asked selectmen.
"I really can't recall a time it was blocked," Schreiber said.
Last December, the town adopted a parking ordinance that enforces no-parking in public ways for the purpose of eliminating traffic hazards, Ferguson said.
The ordinance restricts vehicles from parking in public ways posted as a "No Parking/Tow Away Zone," and from parking within a town right-of-way such that it interferes with snow and ice removal operations.
Ferguson explained to the residents that the ordinance gives the town the authority to tow vehicles found in the no-parking zones. He said he has seen as many as 11 cars parked along the narrow dirt road at one time.
Attorney Greg Braun, from Bridgton, who has lived on Shore Road and was at the October meeting, attended the June 19 meeting to represent the landowners. He said one could argue that the selectmen failed to properly review the issue before adopting the ordinance.
"I make a plead, politely and reasonably, to reconsider and review the exact actions you've taken and whether or not you can accomplish a similar goal through different means," Braun told selectmen.
"It may seem like a rather small issue, but it actually has caused considerable amount of ... incovenience for the property owners," Braun said.
He suggested the town resurvey the area and reconsider the placement of the signs, or perhaps remove them altogether.
Bonnie Jackson, a summer resident in Otisfield for 40 years, admitted that she has since parked in the no-parking zone in front of her cottage and believes it does not pose a hazard. Jackson said, as a registered handi-cap driver, parking in front of her property is convenient.
"There is absolutely no blocking of any traffic," she confirmed. "It's impossible."
Her husband, Gary Jackson, also brought the issue to selectmen, last October, and said he's never heard of any accidents at the intersection.
Selectmen have said without posting the no-parking signs, they could become liable for any accidents that may occur.
Selectman Lenny Adler, at the June 19 meeting, said he believed Silvaqua Road is one of the very few deeded roads in town.
"We own the road up to the property line of the homeowners," he said. The town owns the width of the right-of-way, he said.
Herb Olsen, resident and member of the fire department, said, in the past, he had to make a three-point turn at intersection in the firetruck when responding to a call because the road is too narrow. With cars parked there, it's even worse, he claimed.
"This is not personal," Ferguson reiterated. "It's safety."
Selectman Rick Micklon, at the meeting, made accommodations for Jackson by allowing her to park her vehicle on the road for a few days – as requested – without the vehicle getting towed.
Selectmen, the fire chief and the road commissioner are responsible for enforcing the no-parking ordinance.
Violators are subject to a civil penalty of $50. Any person charged with violation of the ordinance may waive court action by paying a $20 fee to the town within 30 days of violation.