A lawsuit filed by a Biddeford resident over the city’s plan to charge for parking in city-owned lots has been dismissed by a judge who determined it was filed too late.

Jason Litalien filed a lawsuit in York County Superior Court in October in an attempt to stop the city from implementing a paid parking system. His suit argued the city was circumventing a 2014 referendum that banned parking meters downtown.

Cumberland County Superior Court Justice MaryGay Kennedy dismissed the lawsuit, saying Litalien waited too long to challenge a city vote to approve the plan. In an order dated May 13, Kennedy wrote that the lawsuit should have been filed within the 30-day time limit mandated by state law to appeal actions by a municipal administrative agency.

The lawsuit had been moved to Cumberland County after a York County justice recused himself.

Litalien said he now plans to file a federal lawsuit against the city because he believes the city’s actions violate the First Amendment right to free speech by disregarding the votes cast by residents in the 2014 referendum.

City officials say the new parking plan, which took effect Nov. 1, is consistent with the results of a 2014 referendum to ban parking meters on downtown streets. On-street parking is still free and no parking meters have been installed along city streets. But, under the new plan, people who want to park in municipal lots can either buy a monthly pass or pay hourly at a kiosk.

City Manager James Bennett on Tuesday said the city was confident the lawsuit would be dismissed.

“We were very deliberate in terms of looking at the history of what the referendum was about, what it said and what it tried to achieve,” he said.

Parking has been a hot-button issue in Biddeford as the city experiences a surge of redevelopment in the downtown mill district. Some residents have pushed back against assertions by city officials that more parking is needed to accommodate downtown employees and residents, and have balked at the idea of a municipally funded parking garage.

In 2014, resident Paul Therrien led an effort to place a referendum on the city ballot to ban parking meters downtown. The referendum, which passed overwhelmingly, came in response to City Council discussions about a parking garage and meters, but no plan had been formally presented or voted on.

Last March, the City Council approved the design of a parking garage to be built at 3 Lincoln St., the city-owned property that once was home to the Maine Energy Recovery Co. trash incinerator. Councilors more recently approved the parking management plan that officials say is designed to free up on-street parking spots for people going to restaurants and stores while charging employees and residents to park for longer times in parking lots. City officials say the plan shifts the costs associated with long-term parking away from city taxpayers and onto the people using the parking lots.

But Litalien, who has spoken at public meetings, said residents were clear in 2014 that they don’t want paid parking anywhere downtown. He said the kiosks installed in city parking lots to collect payment are parking meters, no matter what city officials call them.

“They’re doing whatever they want and it’s not right,” Litalien said.

 

 

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