A Biddeford committee has added free short-term parking and made other changes to a new downtown parking plan in response to concerns from business owners and residents.

The changes, approved this week by the city’s Downtown Committee, include designating one downtown parking lot for short-term parking only, rather than long-term parking for people who buy a monthly permit.

“With the addition of one more free short-term parking lot on Franklin Street, the committee is continuing to try to make changes to reflect the comments and requests made by citizens in hope of improving the city’s parking management plan,” said Councilor Norman Belanger, who chairs the Downtown Committee.

Under the new plan approved this fall by the City Council, there are eight city-owned lots in or near the downtown where people can park with permits, which can be purchased on a short-term basis by the hour. Also available are long-term permits that allow people to park during the day or night.

Biddeford city officials maintain that the plan is needed to balance the competing demands for a finite number of parking spots and stimulate business at a time the city is experiencing a surge of redevelopment downtown. But some residents and business owners have pushed back on the plan, saying it could drive away customers and cost small businesses more money to operate.

During a Nov. 19 meeting held to address the concerns, multiple business owners said they worry customers won’t be able to find a place to park, especially when they are downtown to run a quick errand or pick up food.

In response to feedback, the Downtown Committee voted this week to reserve the 25-spot “downtown/yellow lot” on Franklin Street for short-term parking only. The first hour of parking will be free and additional time can be purchased at an hourly rate of $1. Long-term permit holders who were previously assigned to that lot will be reassigned to another lot of their choice.

The committee also removed the restriction on the number of long-term parking permits that can be sold for each lot, which allows the city to sell permits until the lot reaches capacity. The City Council had previously established a cap on long-term parking that required no more than 65 percent of spaces be available for long-term parking.

The existing parking supply in the Mill District/downtown area includes 419 municipal parking lot spaces – some of which will remain free – 1,705 private lot spaces and 765 on-street spaces – a total of 2,889 spaces, according to the city. Parking on streets will continue to be free but subject to time limits in certain parts of the downtown area.

 

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