Cape Elizabeth town councilors rejected a parking fee at Fort Williams Monday night in a 4-to-3 vote, sending the matter to a town vote instead.

Councilors rejected the fee after listening to residents argue against it for nearly two hours. Spanning an age gap of 50 years, new and longtime residents expressed concern that it displayed elitism and was unfair with South Portland and Portland offering many free events. Others said people might start to drive through the park or find creative ways to park free.

After listening to public comments, councilors offered their views on the subject. Before Michael Mowles spoke, the council was split 3 to 3, and the audience let the councilors know they were not happy about the tie with boos and heckling.

Mowles thanked everyone for coming and said he was against the fees and the park-and-display system. It was defeated 4 to 3 with councilors Mowles, Carol Fritz, Paul McKenney and David Backer voting against it. Councilors Anne Swift-Kayatta, Mary Ann Lynch and Cynthia Dill voted in favor of the fee.

The council did, however, vote to send the issue to referendum in November, pending a final approval at the next regular meeting on Sept. 11. Mowles and Fritz voted against a referendum on the fee.

“Ironic our town symbol is a lighthouse. I hope it doesn’t have to be changed to a dollar sign,” said resident Brad Smith.

“How great does our park have to be?” asked Edward Maderson addressing the price tag for fort repairs. “Fort Williams is a treasure we are lucky enough to share with the rest of the world.”

“Do we really want to encourage a drive-through park?” asked Debbie Fisher, referring to the fact that visitors would be able to visit the fort free of charge if they did not park their cars and walk around.

“It is just a really bad, bad idea,” said Jeff Armstrong.

Several of the residents who spoke out were volunteers at the lighthouse, former Town Council members or former members of the Fort Williams Advisory Committee.

Lauri Jennsen is a fourth-year volunteer at the museum. She said she has been taking informal polls and people from out-of-state would reluctantly pay the fee while many people from Maine said they would not.

“I was on the Town Council when there was a proposal to make Fort Williams high-rise housing,” said Henry Berry. It would be unfortunate for the council to try to make money off it now with park fees, he said.

Overall, over 25 Cape Elizabeth residents took the time to express distaste with parking fees at Fort Williams.

Chairman David Backer expressed the sentiment of the people of Cape Elizabeth present at the meeting when he said, “What we are hearing tonight is we would rather bear the tax burden and share with our neighbors.”

The park-and-display proposal will now likely be on the November ballot. The proposal allows Cape Elizabeth residents to park their cars free of charge. Non-residents will have to pay $5 a day to park and may purchase a season pass for $25. Busses and Trolleys will be charged $20 a day or $100 for a season pass. School buses can park free but only during the school year.

Implementation of the fees has been recommended to start on April 1, 2007, with parking charges lasting from April 1 to Oct. 31, although several people who spoke on Monday night suggested the council consider not implementing fees before 2008 to avoid conflicting with already printed tour guides. A number of kiosks will be placed in the different parking lots that will dispense parking stickers and accept cash or credit card for payment.

During special events, like the Beach to Beacon Race, the parking fees will be suspended for a period of time. The proposal puts an emphasis on thorough enforcement, signs and ease-of-use for the pay-and-display system.

A number of methods for charging fees at the park were presented by the Fort Williams Advisory Committee on April 12 to the Town Council. The council selected a working group that presented the pay-and-display proposal discussed Monday night.

Town to vote on park feeTown to vote on park fee

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.