LAHAINA - Lahaina resident Peggy Robertson last week sent a petition to Mayor Alan Arakawa arguing that a proposal to remove parking along Hotel Street "will hurt the small businesses in the area."
Maui County Communications Director Rod Antone said the Public Works Department will respond to the petition signed by 40 people.
He emphasized that if the county proposes removing public parking on a county street, it must conduct a study and hold community meetings.
During the IMAGINE project, a nine-month planning process to brainstorm ways to bring respect to the history and culture of the Lahaina Harborfront area, participants agreed that the whole area should be "pedestrian first."
The IMAGINE plan calls for a new sidewalk on all sides of Banyan Tree Park, except the Front Street side that already has one.
This new sidewalk would eliminate parking around Banyan Tree Park and open up views to the harbor, park and historic tree, said Theo Morrison, executive director of Lahaina Restoration Foundation, the group that led the IMAGINE process.
In the IMAGINE plan, parking would also be eliminated from Papalekane and Market streets, except for the existing parking for Lahaina Public Library.
According to the plan, without the visual clutter of parked cars, both Market and Papalekane streets would be more pedestrian-friendly, although vehicular traffic would still be allowed.
Morrison commented that the community is only "talking about this!" The plan includes ideas for further discussion.
"No parking is ever eliminated unless additional parking to replace it is close by," she added.
Using tape to create the new sidewalk areas, the public saw what the parking proposal would look like during "Celebrate Historic Lahaina" on Aug. 21.
"People really liked it," said Morrison. "They could see the park, the harbor and tree."
Robertson believes the proposal to remove parking near the Banyan Tree would hurt business and lower foot traffic at the Pioneer Inn, Lahaina Visitor Center, Lahaina Arts Society's Art Fairs and galleries in the Old Lahaina Courthouse, and stores on Front Street.
"There are many, 40 small businesses, that disagree with the idea of taking out the parking on the south side of Hotel Street," she wrote.
Petition signers "felt that taking out the parking to make a sidewalk in the sunny south side would hurt their businesses, and the public would probably prefer walking in the shade of the Banyan Tree anyway," Robertson noted.
"The congestion on Hotel Street has more to do with the 70 cruise ships, buses and taxis than people shopping or having breakfast or lunch in that area. I hope that if other people feel the same way, they contact the Mayor's Office at 270-7711."
With the three-hour parking limit in place, "local people should also have a right to park there and unload, drop off visitors, park there for an hour or two or go to the visitor center. This is unfair," Robertson concluded.
A parking survey of the area conducted during the IMAGINE process found that the vast majority of cars parked in street parking in the harborfront area during the week were employee cars. Morrison said that some workers parked in the stalls all day long.