LISBON — At least two Lisbon business owners are unhappy with the town council’s decision to move forward with a plan to close lower Main Street to vehicles for a second summer.

The council voted 4-3 to proceed with a plan to close a 4,000-square-foot section on lower Main Street between Route 196 and Union Street. The proposal, developed in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, was designed to draw more foot traffic and encourage outdoor dining.

Ward said he expects the council to consider approving a Main Street plan on Feb. 16. That plan should address concerns raised by businesses and neighbors impacted by the closure the town instituted last summer to help downtown businesses adapt to the pandemic.

Christina Jackson owns Tangles Hair Salon and Main Street Laundry and said she is disappointed with the council’s vote.

“With the road closure, it looks like Main Street is fully closed,” Jackson said. “It was a huge eyesore last year and then in addition to that, when people know it’s open, they have to find a way to come around (road closures). It’s inconvenient and there’s less parking.”

Jackson said she chose to locate her business on Main Street rather than a side road for a reason adding, “It’s a main street, and should be used as such.”

Business owner Krissy Pomerleau said the closure drives more vehicles to park on Union Street, making it more difficult for customers of her three commercial tenants on Union Street to find parking.

“From my standpoint, I’m a property owner in that downtown area and I actually own several properties in Lisbon and that area — it presents challenges during normal times and obviously were not in normal times,” Pomerleau said Wednesday.

According to the Maine Department of Transportation, the downtown section of Main Street had an average traffic count of nearly 4,000 vehicles in 2017.

One of the issues raised by the council was the need to create a better presentation of Moxie Plaza. Councilor Norm Albert said he believes the town has a great opportunity to advertise businesses on Main Street where it is closed off at the intersection with Route 196.

Brett Richardson, Lisbon’s economic and community development director, said the town may consider leaving Main Street visible at that closure so that passersby can see the tables and people enjoying themselves.

“There’s no better marketing than seeing people have a good time,” he said.

Richardson said there is good momentum with the COVID-19 vaccine distribution taking place in Maine, “but there’s still a lot of uncertainty and there’s going to demand for folks who want to get together outside. There’s going to be a need for Main Street businesses and in particular, restaurants to be able to spread out outdoors to serve folks.”

Richardson said there are bout 10 businesses along this stretch of Main Street.

Councilor Fern Larochelle said he can’t support shutting down Main Street unless the council has the support of all the businesses affected and has addressed every concern, “and I don’t think we can do that at this point.”

Richardson presented a second option that would create a smaller 3,000-square-foot outdoor dining and retail area on the west side of Main Street that allows vehicles to drive on Main Street.

Councilor Mark Lunt said he preferred this option because it doesn’t pit businesses against one another.

Maggie Oliver, the owner of Eastcraeft, a women’s clothing store at 14 Main Street, said she can support either plan for Main Street but feels it is important to support Frank’s Restaurant and Pub and Flux Restaurant and Bar on lower Main Street.

“I can sort of see both sides but the worst thing I think for the town would be to lose Franks and Flux since they’re such great additions for the town and I am definitely willing to work a little harder to get more business if I have to,” Oliver said.

Richardson said he will work on improving the intersection of Main and Union streets, address speeding in adjacent neighborhoods with the placement of speed bumps, creating a more simple and inexpensive application process for vendors, prioritizing customer parking for businesses and improving traffic flow and signs to help people navigate the closure. He is expected to return before the council with a budget for the closure as well.

The council previously voted in favor of hiring a summer event coordinator for the Moxie Festival, who can also be in charge of other events around town. The town hasn’t yet decided if or how it will hold the annual festival this year. Councilors agreed Tuesday they don’t want to wait to finalize the plan for Main Street before working to hire the event coordinator.

 


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