A drive to save three downtown parking lots packs the Westbrook City Council meeting on Monday. Robert Lowell / American Journal

Westbrook Mayor Michael Foley says a compromise is possible in the city’s controversial plan to do away with three downtown parking lots to make room for new housing.

“We believe there’s middle ground on this issue,” Foley said at a City Council meeting packed mostly with opponents of the development, although a number of residents who support the plan also attended.

Council Vice Chairman David Morse assured the crowd that “this is not a done deal.”

Attorney and Westbrook resident Andrew Broaddus speaks Monday to the Westbrook City Council. Broaddus has rallied opposition to plans to develop three downtown parking lots. Robert Lowell / American Journal

The city, with a free parking garage nearing completion at William Clarke Drive and Mechanic Street, put out requests last spring for proposals for multi-unit housing on two surface lots on Church Street and another on Main Street between two banks.

Proposals will go to the City Council in early 2024, Foley said. All plans will be subject to public hearings, council negotiation and approval.

Resident Andrew Broaddus, an attorney who has organized opposition to the plan, said residents fear the loss of the parking lots will negatively impact a church, a funeral home and businesses, along with their customers and employees and visitors to the city.


“The ripple effect will be felt for years to come,” Broaddus said.

But other residents at the meeting said the lots are needed for multi-story apartment buildings to ease the housing shortage impacting the city and the rest of the state.

Housing is more important than parking, said Liz Eisele McLellan, co-chair of Westbrook Community Housing Coalition.

“What we cannot do is prioritize parking over people, cars over community,” she said.

Lucas Schrage of Cloudman Street, program manager at the nonprofit Project Home agency in Portland, spoke in favor of Westbrook’s opportunity to build housing, as did Brad Richardson of Myrtle Street.

“I can think of no better place to build than downtown,” Richardson said.


The Rev. Scott Linscott, pastor of First Baptist Church Westbrook, in an email to the city read at the meeting, said he believes downtown housing would be good for businesses.

“The bottom line is we desperately need housing,” Linscott wrote.

Foley’s suggestion of a compromise didn’t go over well with Simon Snyder of Stroudwater Street. He said he doesn’t “have faith” in the city administration’s development plans. “I’m suggesting a thoughtful pause,” he said.

Tabitha Swanson, owner of the Swanson Group accounting firm at the corner of Church and Main streets, said her business would suffer if the parking lots are developed. Of her 5,000 clients, 20% are elderly, she said, and she fears she’ll lose their business if they can’t park nearby. She said she also could lose some of her 33 employees who would be uncomfortable walking to the parking garage at 11 p.m.

“I was very disappointed to learn this was happening with my business right there, my building right there, and no consultation and no discussion with me about it until it was a done deal, if that’s truly what’s happening,” Swanson said.

“This is not a done deal,” Council Vice President David Morse said, “not even close to a done deal.”

City Councilor Gary Rairdon said residents will have plenty of opportunity for public comment going forward. “Be informed, stay informed and be part of the process,” he said, and noted  that “we’ve never had the council (meeting) this full for three or four years.”

Suzanne Salisbury, co-owner of the Daily Grind coffee shop on Main Street, urged the city to look at other locations to construct housing. Salisbury, state representative in House District 128 and a member of the Westbrook School Committee, said the loss of the parking lots would impact her business and she doesn’t want her daughter walking to the shop from the parking garage at 5 a.m.

Carson Wood of Foster Street opposed developing the parking lots. “I don’t want my town to become an inner city,” Wood said.

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