BIDDEFORD — On Nov. 4, Biddeford voters will be asked whether the city should put parking meters in the downtown.

A yes vote means they must be installed, although there is no definitive time period or outline of where they must be located.

A no vote means meters would not be allowed anywhere in the downtown.

The city is not making a recommendation on how citizens should vote on the referendum question.

However, Mayor Alan Casavant said he would like people to make an informed decision if they vote on the issue. To that end, he formed a parking committee, tasked with coming up with a plan to educate the public. The group has been meeting for several months.

On Friday, the committee unanimously approved a brochure put together by downtown revitalization organization the Heart of Biddeford.

The brochure summarizes parking recommendations by Rich & Associates, the firm commissioned by the city to conduct a parking study of the downtown and mill district. The study was completed in 2012.

Like many elements associated with the parking meter issue, the brochure has been controversial.

At Friday’s parking committee meeting, resident Paul Therrien, one of the main organizers who collected signatures last year to get the issue on the ballot, spoke out against some of the points made by the one-page, double-faced pamphlet.

He said he didn’t believe the brochure was the most accurate portrayal of the parking study recommendations.

The pamphlet states that Rich & Associates found that a parking management “system” would be the best way to address parking issues and handle current and future development.

The system should address parking. It should also deal with pedestrian pathways, improved lighting and signs, and encourage bicycle use.

Therrien said he thought those recommendations should be left out. Instead, he favored including sections of the report that talk about municipal parking lots being underutilized, for instance.

He also disagreed with a section of the pamphlet that discusses implications for the future. That section states that the study found that future parking needs of the downtown and mill district cannot be met with existing surface parking.

It also states that “in order to attract more jobs, we need more parking,” and adds, “development in the mills and Main Street benefits the rest of the city economically,” by bringing jobs and stabilizing property taxes.

The brochure is only one of the controversial issues related to the parking meter question.

Last year, a parking garage, which was one recommendation of the parking study, was discussed by city council.

Locating it in the mill district was part of the discussion. Installing parking meters and using part of the revenue to pay for a parking structure was also discussed.

However, no proposal for structured parking or installing parking meters was ever formally put before the city council.

Therrien said one of the reasons he’s against parking meters is because he’s against revenue from meters being used for a parking garage in the mill district.

He said he would be against using any city money, whether from meters or funds earned from a Tax Increment Financing District, to support a parking structure there.

If any city funds were used to build a parking garage, said Therrien, he favors the city purchasing the former courthouse on Washington Street and constructing a garage there to benefit businesses on Main Street.

Vincent Keely, owner of the Wonderbar restaurant on Washington Street in the downtown, has also been vocal in the fight against parking meters. He has put up a number of signs in the downtown and throughout the city telling people to vote no in November.

He said he also opposes metered parking because he believes it will hurt his business.

Another advocate of a no vote on the parking meter question is resident Ronald Peaker.

“I don’t want to use parking meter revenue to support a parking garage,” he said.

“If mill developers want a parking garage, let them build it,” said Peaker.

City officials like the mayor and Economic Development Director Daniel Stevenson say that neither a parking garage nor parking meters are under discussion at this time.

They emphasized that they are not making a recommendation for how citizens should vote on the issue, but only want them to make an informed vote.

Heart of Biddeford Executive Director Delilah Poupore, who was involved in designing the brochure, said her organization is not taking a stance on which way to vote.

“But we would like people to know about the study details and implications,” she said.

The brochure will be available soon. It will be advertised in one of the local publications, which is to be determined.

There is also information, including the report from the parking study, on the city website,

“Regardless of the outcome of the vote,” said Stevenson, “the city will have to deal with a parking management system at some point in the future.”

— Staff Writer Dina Mendros can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 324 or [email protected]

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