Residents and hotel owners could see an increase  in parking fees for Mother’s Beach, shown here in this winter scene, Middle and Gooch’s Beach in Kennebunk. A public hearing on the matter is set for March 24. Tammy Wells Photo

KENNEBUNK — Residents will get their chance to weigh on some proposed new fees they may be charged for parking along Beach Avenue at Gooch’s, Middle and Mother’s beaches.

The Kennebunk Select Board voted to set a public hearing on the proposal for March 24. Meetings begin at 6:30 p.m. The meeting will likely take place in a larger venue, like the town hall auditorium, to better accommodate social distancing.

Town Manager Mike Pardue  said those  interested in offering comment may do so by emailing:  [email protected]  He said people may call him at 604-1308  to comment and that he would share their comment with the Select Board.

The proposal includes an increase to $10 from $5 for the second resident/ taxpayer permit; to $15 from $10 for the third resident/taxpayer permit per address, and to $50 from $25 for resident/taxpayer guest permits.

The proposal includes a hike to $100 from $50 for beach passes that hotels and motels buy for guests.

There are no recommended increases for non-resident passes.

While the first resident/taxpayer permit is recommended to remain free, Select Board members earlier this month  talked briefly about charging a nominal fee to make tracking the number of permits issued easier.

The last increase for most categories was in 2017, apart from the second resident/taxpayer pass, which increased 15 or more years ago, town records show.

With the number of free passes estimated at 5,000, and records show 3,577 for the second resident pass and 1,543 for the third, a total of 10,200 passes in those categories were issued during the summer of 2019.

The town had projected $160,000 in revenue at current rates based on 9,500 resident passes, 1,200 hotel and motel passes, 2,100 non-resident day passes, 120 non-resident, seven-day passes, and 140 full-season passes. If, following the public hearing, the Select Board votes to increase the fees, based on the same quantities, the town would garner $222,500.

The recommendation was scrutinized by the finance and ordinance subcommittees before consideration by the full Select Board on March 10.

While there are no changes proposed to the beach parking ordinance, Select Board member Christopher Cluff said members have been talking about reviewing that.

Cluff said town hall staff is recommending a fee be attached for the resident pass that is now free.

Select Board member Frank Paul said what he hears most from residents is that they can’t’ find a place to park at the beach.

“I don’t think they care much about the fee,” he said.

Paul also asked about hotel and motel guest passes.

“Can hotels buy as many as they want?” he queried.

“Yes,” said Cluff, adding he had been told some charge their guests for the use of the passes and sell them to other hotels under the same ownership in other communities.

Select Board member Wayne Berry wondered if the first pass should remain free or a nominal fee charged.

Cluff reminded the others that the fee for a first resident pass had been $1 for many years and later went to $2 but was changed to free in 2017.

“I wouldn’t mind paying $1 for a pass to keep track of them,” said Paul. “Do you think people are giving their passes to others who don’t live here?

“Yes,” said Cluff.

Kennebunk does not currently tie beach passes to vehicle registrations.

“The current ordinance is wishy-washy,” said Cluff. ” I have three (property) tax bills. Can I get nine permits?”

If a fee was to be charged for the first permit, now free, Finance Director Joel Downs said staff would prefer something greater than $1 for tracking purposes. He said for free passes, most families are on the honor system.

There was talk of charging a penny for the free pass, with the town supplying the penny, if it would create a tracking system, but the idea got no takers.

The six Select Board members present — William Ward was absent — unanimously agreed to send the matter to the March 24 public hearing.

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