Westbrook officials and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland are negotiating an arrangement to alleviate parking concerns at St. Anthony of Padua Parish and provide much-needed space for nearby businesses and residents.

But a plan to develop 132 apartments in the nearby Dana Warp Mill could leave many drivers circling the block.

A City Council subcommittee met Monday night to discuss a proposal for the city to develop 80 to 90 parking spaces on a one-acre lot that it owns south of the church. The church proposed 20 to 25 new parking spaces on adjacent property it owns at Dana Court.

St. Anthony’s has 1,100 registered families, many of whom fill the church’s 75 parking spaces and park along both sides of Brown Street and on some nearby side streets.

The parish grew in 2005 after the diocese consolidated the city’s St. Edmund’s and St. Mary’s churches into St. Hyacinth Church. The church was renamed St. Anthony of Padua Parish.

City Administrator Jerre Bryant said that if the city develops its property for parking, the church will let the city use church parking lots when no services are being held. He said the agreement would be a cost-effective way to provide parking for people who work in the area.

“Right now, there is a pretty high demand for parking from businesses and residents,” Bryant said. “This would increase the parking for existing residents and business employees and new residents. I think it’s a situation that both entities will benefit from.”

Dave Twomey Jr., the diocese’s chief financial officer, could not be reached for comment.

St. Anthony’s celebrates three Masses on weekends and holds funerals throughout the week. Mary Hopkins, a secretary at the parish who lives in the neighborhood, said about 500 families attend the weekend services.

She said some funerals fill the church’s parking lots. She expressed concern that a parking arrangement with the city would prevent funeral attendees from parking in church lots. That issue arose in 2001, when the city had an informal agreement to share parking with the church.

“We have a lot of funerals,” Hopkins said. “During the week, when we are not allowed to park on the street, it’s hard for large funerals.”

Details of the agreement aren’t final. Bryant said that during negotiations, the diocese expressed interest in having the city pave and stripe the church lots. Bryant said he proposed plowing and sanding the lots.

City officials have a separate agreement to help the owners of One Riverfront Plaza, a commercial building, find 75 additional parking spaces for employees.

Bryant said he plans to work with businesses that need parking to help defray the cost of developing the city-owned lot.

The proposal for 132 apartments on the top two floors of the nearby Dana Warp Mill on Bridge Street has added to the concerns about parking. Tim Flannery, owner of the mill, has renovated some floors, where several businesses operate.

At a meeting March 1, city councilors expressed concerns about the lack of parking for the apartments. There are 55 parking spaces outside the mill.

Councilor John O’Hara said Tuesday that Flannery’s project is exactly what the city needs to grow and thrive, but some residents might feel uneasy about walking from apartments to the church parking lots, about 1,000 feet away.

“It’s not the weather from May to October, it’s the four months in the winter that are very difficult,” O’Hara said. “If that’s the case, the city will have an increase in cost to take care of the sidewalks and streets.”

The council will hold a public hearing April 5 to discuss the project. O’Hara said Flannery must address concerns about parking before the council signs off on the project. He also raised concerns about the cost to develop the city-owned parking lot.

“I don’t believe we can create our parking lot for less than $200,000,” the councilor said. “The question is not, can the city, but can Mr. Flannery solve the crisis of parking in that area?”

Flannery could not be reached for comment.

 

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: [email protected]