A parking lot in downtown Biddeford is full on Saturday. Beginning Nov. 1, there will be a fee to park in city-owned parking lots in Biddeford. DINA MENDROS/Journal Tribune

BIDDEFORD — Starting Nov. 1 those parking in downtown Biddeford will notice some big differences. There will be more time-limited parking spaces and parking in city-owned lots will no longer be free. Although the changes don’t take affect until the beginning of next month, signs announcing the changes may be rolled out sooner.

City officials say the reason for the changes include the need for increased parking in the downtown due to growth in Biddeford’s urban core.

To address this, City Council began wrestling with the decision of whether to build a parking garage as well as develop a parking management plan, or PMP.

A parking garage and parking plan will benefit residents, Economic Development Director Mathew Eddy said.

“Solving the parking challenge is expected to have a direct and tangible impact on growth in property tax valuation,” according to a draft of the PMP, which can be found on the city’s website at biddefordmaine.org.

Full development of space in the mill district, adjacent to the downtown, will provide about $100 million in new value, or more, not including the redevelopment of the city-owned site at 3 Lincoln St., Eddy said.

“With limited impacts on services, this growth will be critical in order to continue to stabilize property taxes and meet future capital demands in the city,” the draft PMP states.

In March, City Council approved the design of a parking structure to be built on the city-owned site at 3 Lincoln St., located in the mill district and adjacent to the downtown, but more votes are necessary.

Although a final decision on building a parking structure has not been made — although a vote on that could take place in the next few months — last month council members approved ordinances to put a PMP in place.

According to several studies, both the garage and parking plan are needed to address both existing and projected parking demand. An analysis of supply and demand of downtown and mill district parking by city staff shows that there just isn’t enough parking.

Demand is based on the need of three spaces per 1,000 square feet of building area, according to the draft PMP.

The existing parking supply in the combined Mill District/downtown area includes 419 municipal parking lots spaces 1,705 private lot spaces and 765 on-street spaces — a total of 2,889 spaces.

But exiting demand exceeds those numbers. With an existing demand for 4,200  but a supply of only 2,889 spots there’s a deficit of 1,311. With full build-out in both the downtown and Mill District the supply remains the same but the demand increases to 5,122, and the deficit increases to 2,233. If 3 Lincoln St. is also developed — the city announced last month that a development plan for the site is in the works — demand increases to 6,061 and the deficit to 3,127.

The draft PMP, identified ways to increase address the lack of parking by placing time limits on more parking spaces in the downtown as well as charging for parking in municipal parking lots. Both of these solutions were approved by City Council in September.

The city announced the changes to take affect Nov. 1 in a press release on Saturday. According to the release, the parking changes were developed using feedback from three public meetings held on the issue in April, along with staff recommendations.

“As part of these changes, many on-street parking spaces that once allowed for unlimited parking will be replaced with two-hour parking spaces,” according to the release.

“It’s important to remember that on-street parking is remaining completely free of charge, and that’s something that there seems to be misconception about,” City Manager James Bennett said. “The only thing that’s changing with on-street parking is that some streets will have shorter parking time restrictions. By limiting more spaces to two-hour parking, the turnover rate is going to increase. The goal is that most visitors and residents will be able to find free short-term parking on the street to run an errand or grab lunch downtown like they always have.”

Downtown streets where unlimited parking will change to two-hour limits include portions of Adams, Bacon, Center, Jefferson, Lincoln and South streets, according to a FAQ sheet on the city of Biddeford website. “This means there will be more turnover, in no-cost, on-street parking,” according to the website. In addition, six spaces in the Franklin Street parking lot will be designated free, 30-minute spots. There spaces are near the popular eateries Louis Pizza and George’s Sandwich shops, and several other businesses. When paid parking was first brought before the City Council, representatives from some of these businesses told the council it would hurt them.

In addition to the shorter parking limits, those parking in city-owned lots will be required to purchase parking permits. They can be purchased using credit or debit cards at parking kiosks located in the lots, through a mobile app called “WayToPay,” or with cash at the City Clerk’s Office in City Hall during normal business hours.

Paid parking lots will including those at Washington Street, Federal Street, the downtown lot, Franklin Street, Foss Street, Alfred Street, and the gas house and wastewater treatment plant lots.

To allow for an adjustment period, monthly parking permits will be discounted through April 2019, with prices ranging from $20 for night and weekend permits to $40 for 24/7 access, Starting May 1, night and weekend permits increase to $35 per month, and $65 per month for 24/7 access.

Long-term parking permits will initially be distributed via a lottery system for the month of November but will be available on a first-come, first-served basis from the parking kiosks and mobile app starting in December. The city is accepting applications for the first set of long-term parking permits until Oct. 19. Application forms are available on the city’s website at biddefordmaine.org. or may be picked up at City Hall in the City Clerk’s Office and City Manager’s Office.

Short-term permits will be $1 per hour through April and increase to $2 per hour on May 1.

The fine for parking without a permit is $50.

As an additional part of these parking changes, Main Street will become a no-parking zone between 1 to 6 a.m. to provide time for the Public Works Department to clean the street.

Some of the fees associated with the parking changes include spending about $99,000 to purchase 15 parking kiosks, plus a monthly fee of $52 per  unit, as well as about $40,000 for three handheld parking ticket enforcement devices.

One of the ordinances approved by City Council allows them to quickly change aspects of the parking changes if the need arises.

—Associate Editor Dina Mendros can be contacted at 780-9014 or [email protected]

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