BIDDEFORD — More parking changes are taking place in Biddeford’s downtown. A reconfiguration of the downtown parking lots in the Federal and Franklin streets area are designed to eliminate confusion, make the lots easier to navigate and will result in a net gain of hourly parking spaces.

A number of area business owners have said their customers are confused about where they can park since the city implemented paid parking in city-owned lots in the downtown in December and many are getting tickets.

“One of the fundamental problems with the lots is that the layout created confusion,” Mayor Alan Casavant said. “There were too many ways in, too many signs,” he said. “We are realigning the parking lot,” he said, and “cleaning up the area.”

The project, which began Tuesday and is expected to take about two weeks is being conducted by the city’s Department of Public Works and will cost about $19,330, according to a memo by Chief Operating Officer Brian Phinney. It will reduce the number of entry and exit points to the “Green” and “Yellow” parking lots to control traffic and simplify parking signs.

“To achieve this, Federal Street will be eliminated completely and the entrance to the parking lot from Washington Street will be removed,” according to a press release from the city. “Franklin Street will be converted to accommodate two-way traffic flow between the two remaining entrances from Main Street and Jefferson Street. Drivers may still exit the lot onto Alfred Street next to Louis Pizza and onto Washington Street using the roadway next to the Palace Diner.”

“By limiting the number of entrances and converting the one-way street, we will be able to provide clearer directional signage that will make it easier for visitors to Biddeford to understand where they can park,” Public Works Director Jeff Demers said. “The closure of Federal Street also allows us to create additional parking spaces in the Green Lot.”

The new design separates the Green Lot from the Yellow Lot with barriers. The Yellow Lot will remain hourly parking only and will continue to offer two hours of free parking per 24-hour period. It will increase the number of available spaces from 25 to 52, according to Biddeford Communications Coordinator Danica Lamontagne. The Green Lot will be converted to long-term permit parking only and will decrease from 131 to 105 spaces. All of the spaces in the Green Lot are for monthly permit holders only. Once the reconfiguration is completed, there will be 354 spaces in the city’s seven parking lots. There are also about 391 free, on-street parking spaces in the city center.

Yellow Lot users will still be required to enter their license plate number at the kiosk in order to park for free for two hours in these spaces; the use of a credit card is not required. The amount of free 30-minute parking spaces near Louis Pizza will also increase from 12 to 14, and kiosk use is not required to park in these spaces.

“With the current parking layout, we’ve noticed that many visitors get confused about the difference between the Yellow and Green Lot because there is no clear division between them. They may pull into a space in the Green Lot without realizing that there is free hourly parking available just steps away,” said Mayor Alan Casavant. “Splitting up the lots for their two separate purposes will eliminate this confusion.”

He said he visited the lots and even he found them confusing.

Casavant said he hopes the new plan will address some of the complaints, particularly from area business owners, that began even before paid parking in city-owned lots was implemented.

On June 26, many voiced their concerns and opposition to paid parking in the downtown lots at a special citizens’ meeting at the Little Theater at Biddeford High School.

Stacy Cooper owns Biscuits and Company of Alfred Street and said her restaurant is being negatively impacted by the parking plan.

“From the beginning, I tried to stay neutral on the parking situation,” Cooper said. “I’m here because of what I’m hearing and the impact from the parking situation. Every day my customers tell me about their parking situation confusion. Many customers say they won’t come downtown without a reason. There are a new wave of tourists coming in who are surprised to see the changes.”

Cooper said as a business, she is paying more than $1,500 a year for her employees to park and is seeing fewer customers since paid parking was started.

When paid parking was first introduced, the short term rate was $1 per hour to park in city lots with a $30 monthly permit for a Monday through Friday pass, $20 for a nights and weekends pass; and $40 for a 24/7 pass. But those rates were increased May 1 to $2 per hour, and $50, $35 and $65 respectively. Municipal lots affected are the Alfred Street parking lot, the lot at 17 Franklin St., a lot on the corner of Franklin and Washington streets, the Federal Street parking lot, the Foss Street lot, the Gas House parking lot on Water Street, the Washington Street parking lot and the wastewater parking lot on the corner of Water and Pike streets.

At the June 26 meeting, Biddeford resident Sue Sexton of Grady’s Radio and Satellite TV on the corner of Main and Alfred streets, asked councilors and the mayor to scrap the paid parking plan.

“Let’s reconsider this parking thing and give people a place where they’re happy to live,” she said.

Jason Litalien of Biddeford had filed a lawsuit in York County Superior Court in October against the city to prohibit charging to park in city-owned lots. The case was dismissed in May because he waited too long to challenge a City Council vote to approve the plan and should have filed his suit within 30 days of that vote.

Litalien filed another suit on constitutional grounds at U.S. District Court in Portland on May 24 claiming that implementation of the parking plan is a direct violation of the First Amendment rights of the citizens of Biddeford by disregarding the binding 2014 referendum.

City officials say the reasoning behind paid parking in city lots is to save taxpayers money. Casavant has said that everywhere else in the city, people pay to maintain their own parking. However, until paid parking was implemented, property taxpayers through the city’s general fund were paying to maintain parking in the downtown for business owners and employees and area residents. By forcing long term parkers into the paid lots, he said, it opens up on Main Street and other downtown areas where shoppers, restaurant goers and others doing business in the city center can park for free.

“I think the philosophy is sound,” Casavant said.”It actually serves the majority of residents.”

Paid parking has also been tied to discussions about a proposed parking garage that wold be located in the former site of the Maine Energy Recovery Company trash incinerator, which is owned by the city. The site is in Biddeford’s mill district which abuts the downtown.

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


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