A public hearing on a fee for Kennebunk taxpayer beach passing passes, the elimination of guest and hotel/motel passes and an update to the beach parking ordinance is set for April 13. Dan King photo

KENNEBUNK – Those wishing to express their views on proposed changes to the beach parking ordinance and separate fee schedule may attend – virtually – a public hearing. The hearing is scheduled for the April 13 online select board meeting.

Meeting agendas, times and instructions for attending the meetings are at https://www.kennebunkmaine.us/agendacenter.

A proposed update to the Beach Parking Ordinance would charge people who pay taxes in the community a fee – proposed at $5 – for a beach pass.

The proposed ordinance changes address taxpayers and non-taxpayers. A taxpayer is defined as anyone who owns real estate in Kennebunk, personal property, or a resident who pays excise taxes.

The proposed fee schedule for taxpayer beach passes is $5 for each registered vehicle, with no limit on the number of passes. Currently there is no fee for the first permit for resident passes, $5 for the second and $10 for the third – the latter being the maximum allowed.

The fee schedule proposes to eliminate guest passes, which currently cost $25, and hotel/motel passes, which cost $50.

No fee changes are proposed for those who fall into the non-taxpayer category. The cost for non-taxpayer passes is $25 a day, $100 a week and $200 for the season, that runs June 15 to Sept. 15.

The pass, or permit system, is designed for Gooch’s Beach, Middle Beach and Kennebunk Beach (more commonly referred to as Mother’s Beach).

Select board members discussed the proposal the last two meetings.

“‘I’m not really happy with charging $5 for the first vehicle,” said board member Ed Karytko.” I’ve received a lot of calls and text messages. I’m not sure why we’re doing it.”

The first pass for taxpayers hasn’t always been free, said board member Shiloh Schulte.

According to finance Director Joel Downs, the free first pass for residents was instituted in 2017.

Downs said the rationale for changes is an attempt to improve compliance with the ordinance and modify to improve compliance. He said the beach parking ordinance was first introduced in 1993 and last changed in 2011.

“We’re trying to move away from forcing staff to enforce who is a resident and a nonresident,” said Downs. “We’re changing it to a taxpayer sticker – we’re trying to get better compliance.” He said tying a sticker to a license plate, as the updated ordinance proposes, is easier to enforce. “They’re either a taxpayer or not a taxpayer,” said Downs. He explained provisions would be made for taxpayers, for example, who have someone else drive them to the beach.

An online public hearing to discuss proposed changes to Kennebunk’s beach parking fees and ordinance is scheduled for April 13. Dan King photo

Downs has also previously said that the town dispenses upward of 11,000 passes annually, and an online system would cut down on traffic in town hall. In order to do an online system, a number is required, he said.

“I’m concerned about the first $5 sticker,” said board member William Ward. “If someone came into town hall and said they hadn’t got a resident sticker with the present system is there any way to track?”

“They could say they never got the first one. It isn’t assigned to a license plate,” said Downs.

Board member Wayne Berry pointed out that the budget has been established for the year and would require adjustments if the numbers were to change. Berry said the subcommittee that reviewed the proposed fee change and ordinance update also noted that permits are required only on Beach Avenue and said the side streets may be inundated with people parking cars. He said the board should look at requiring passes for other streets.

Downs was asked to explain the elimination of guest passes and he pointed out that people buy and distribute them to friends in neighboring towns and that owners of short-term rental establishments like Airbnb hand them out to guests.

“They pay for them,” said Karytko.

Downs pointed out a season pass for a non-taxpayer is $200.

Karytko said he believed if revenue was a factor, then any increases should be placed on those who don’t pay taxes, not those who do and asked why taxpayers would be charged.

“We would be losing some revenue because they wouldn’t be purchasing three stickers,” said Downs. “Some ask for three and give two away … we’re trying to mitigate that as well, and we’re losing revenue because we’re eliminating guest and motel (passes) and trying to get better compliance.”

He estimated about 6,000 free passes are dispensed each year.

“If we don’t charge something, we have no way to track it, said Berry. He also pointed out a free permit doesn’t guarantee a parking spot.

“This seems to be the best solution,” said Berry.

Resident Amanda Batson said as a taxpayer, she’d like to be able to buy a guest pass for those who visit her. “I hope that will be considered, rather than eliminating them altogether, she said.

Resident John Costin, who is also a select board candidate in the June 8 election, said the board hasn’t answered the larger questions – like whether the beach pass system is designed primarily to generate revenue or ration a scarce resource and who should have the most access. Costin gave “kudos” for the board trying to solve the problem, but he said right now, it seemed to him, that access to the beach is tied too strongly to vehicle ownership.

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