The Biddeford City Council voted Tuesday to move forward with negotiations to build the city’s first parking garage.

The vote authorizing negotiation of a joint development agreement came after years of discussions about downtown parking and months of debate about building a garage on city-owned property at 3 Lincoln St.

City officials say expanding parking capacity by building a garage will promote continued economic development downtown and reduce the property tax burden for residents. But downtown parking has been a controversial issue in the city in recent months as residents and business owners criticized a parking management plan that includes paid parking in downtown lots.

The City Council first voted in 2018 to build the garage at 3 Lincoln St., a riverfront property that was once the site of a regional trash incinerator. The city bought the 8.5-acre lot in 2012 for $6.65 million. The council voted in April to move forward with the design of the garage.

On Tuesday, the council voted 5-3 to authorize City Manager James Bennett to negotiate a joint development agreement with Treadwell Franklin Insurance Infrastructure Capital Partners and James W. Sewall Co. to build and maintain the parking garage.

Councilors Laura Seaver, Robert Quattrone and John McCurry voted against the parking garage proposal; Councilor Amy Clearwater was absent from the meeting.

Treadwell Franklin Insurance Infrastructure Capital Partners and James W. Sewall Co. will form the special-purpose project company called Biddeford Innovation Inc. to finance the entire cost of development, construction and initial working capital of the parking facility.

Construction of the parking garage will take 12 to 14 months and cost $21 million to $24 million. Biddeford Innovation Inc. will also fund up to $3 million toward completion of the RiverWalk pedestrian access way.

The city will contribute to the project with annual payments from tax increment financing revenues and fees collected from the operation of the parking garage and downtown surface lots. On-street parking will continue to be free.

City officials have projected a revenue increase of nearly $16 million from property taxes over a 10-year period with the installment of the garage and a net benefit of $39 million over 25 years.

Before voting, Seaver said she has talked extensively with residents during the past few months and that most tell her they are against this specific proposal, even if they generally support the idea of building a parking garage. She said she felt the council is rushing into the deal before answering all of the questions posed by councilors and constituents.

Belanger said he supports the parking garage because it presents an opportunity to provide relief for taxpayers.

“This particular proposal would increase our tax revenues from new development that will be generated because of this garage that is estimated on the conservative side to be $16 million that doesn’t come out of residential taxpayers’ pockets,” he said.

 

 


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