Beach parking rules and some fees have changed for the 2021 summer season, when finding an available spot isn’t always as easy as it was on this recent early spring afternoon. Tammy Wells Photo

KENNEBUNK – Residents and taxpayers will be able to secure up to three beach parking permits this season, at $5 each, and will continue to be able to purchase $25 guest passes, with a limit of four.

Guest passes for hotels, motels and commercial enterprises have been eliminated.

The beach parking permit regulations, however, could change again next year. The select board on April 13 agreed to implement a couple of changes this season and then take a “deep dive” on the issue to examine a host of issues surrounding parking at the beach – from the reasons for the permits, whether they should be expanded to include street-side parking spots off Beach Avenue, and other matters.

The board had considered additional changes for this season – including tying resident and taxpayer permits to a license plate number for tracking purposes and eliminating guest passes altogether, but that didn’t happen.

Until the April 13 vote, beach parking permits for residents had been free for the first, $5 for the second and $10 for the third under a fee schedule implemented in 2017.

As for guest permits, Finance Director Joel Downs said that 864 people bought single guest passes last year; 186 residents bought two; 37 bought three, 14 bought four and so on. He said the largest transaction was the purchase of 21 guest passes by one individual.

Guest passes were originally designed for purchase by residents who had friends or family visiting.

Downs said staff believe in some cases, guest passes are purchased and given away to people who live out of town, and, he said, there is a belief that some are sold. Limiting the maximum  number a family may purchase brings the guest pass back to the original intent, he said.

Downs said Kennebunk hotel and motel beach parking passes have presented a bit of a challenge. He said one hotel has “rented” its passes to its guests. In other cases, he said there have been instances of ownership of hotel or motel properties on both sides of the Kennebunk River distributing guest passes.

“I don’t think we can stop that,” he said. In the end, the board voted to eliminate those passes, noting hotel guests can purchase a day beach parking permit for $25.

Board members pointed out that the purchase of a beach parking permit does not guarantee anyone a parking space.

As to resident/taxpayer passes, board member Frank Paul said he looked at the availability of parking spaces – there are about 200 – and the number of passes sold, and noted the odds of getting a parking space are about 1 in 25.

“You have to get there early,” he said.

Chair Blake Baldwin said he had 19 emails and two phone calls on the beach parking pass issue.

“There was some heartburn about the loss of the free (resident) permit but that was not as great as the proposed elimination of the guest pass,” he said, in part.

A proposal of two guest passes was raised, but eventually the board settled on four.

As to the larger issues, Baldwin asked what the board believed was the point of beach permits.

“Is it to lessen access to the beach, raise money, what is the purpose of this ordinance, when in fact we know we have a limited number of parking spaces and in essence, we’re selling access to residents who frequently cannot access (the parking space), so it brings up the issue of fairness,” Baldwin said.

Board member Wayne Berry said not having a beach parking ordinance is an alternative to the present system, “but that doesn’t mean I endorse it.” He said he supports a fuller examination of the issues and suggested it be sent to the ordinance subcommittee.

Board member Shiloh Schulte noted the town encourages nonresident beach parking permits  because businesses and residents rely on revenue from tourism during the summer.

“I suggest a task force to address the broader issue of beach use,” said resident John Costin during the public hearing, explaining that would include parking permits along Gooch’s, Middle and Mother’s beaches, along with parking and use at Parsons Beach, and more.

Resident Mary Naples inquired whether an elderly resident could obtain the $5 pass and have their son or daughter living elsewhere drive them to the beach.

Downs said accommodations can be made in such circumstances.

Baldwin again spoke to other issues.

“I don’t think we’re trying to ration beach access,” said Baldwin. “Some have said why not have a parking lot and a jitney for transporting (people to the beach)? The answer is the voters turned down a parking lot in Lower Village twice in the past few years.”

In the end, the board voted to amend the ordinance to allow  guest passes registered in the name of the purchasing family, up to a limit of four.

Guest passes for hotels motels and commercial entities, like scooter rentals, have been eliminated.

The board  amended the fee scheduled to charge $5 for each resident/taxpayer beach pass, up to a maximum of three. Guest passes for resident families remain at $25.

Fees for non-resident beach parking passes remain the same, at $25 for the day, $100 for the week and $200 for the season.

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