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- The Forecaster
CAPE ELIZABETH — A comprehensive plan to implement pay-and-display parking at Fort Williams Park was presented by Town Manager Matthew Sturgis during a Town Council public hearing Monday.
The council also presented the municipal budget for fiscal year 2020 in anticipation of a vote next Monday, May 13.
Last November, Sturgis issued a request for proposals from parking management companies that would provide equipment and agents to enforce pay-and-display parking. Unified Parking Partners submitted the only proposal Jan. 3; the council will vote on the proposal and the policy on Monday at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.
The 10 pay-and-display meters would only be installed in five “premium” areas of the park, covering 280 parking spaces close to the water and Portland Head Light. Parking in the rear of the park near the playground, Children’s Garden and Officers’ Row will remain free.
Cape Elizabeth residents will be able to park for free throughout the park, while nonresidents will be charged $2 per hour for a two-hour minimum, $10 for a full day, or $15 for a season pass, Sturgis explained.
The meters would only collect fees from May 1-Nov. 1.
The operating costs of the park currently rely on property taxes.
“We need to find a way to offset the operating costs of the park and this is one method that can be done,” Sturgis said. “This is also another way that financial support for the park can be provided by all users of the park.”
The town estimates revenue of $317,000 – or 80% of the $396,000 it expects to receive from pay-and-display in fiscal year 2020. UPP will retain 20%, estimated at about $79,000.
The catalyst for the new fee is the increased volume of traffic the park has seen over the past decade, Sturgis said. The town estimates 900,000 annual visitors, 60% of whom visit from out-of-state, according to a plate census conducted over the past year.
The current plan to implement pay-and-display parking was introduced by the council last June, but has been a point of contention and focus of discussion in Cape Elizabeth for a few years.
“My thought is that if the town had asked the citizens to vote on this twice in the past, that the citizens should get a chance on this again and this whole parking thing should be held off until the town citizens had said yes or no to this,” said Cape resident Scott Dorrance during the public hearing.
Another resident, Jim Kerney, who is also a member of the Fort Williams Park Committee, responded, “The last two times this came up for referendum, I was strongly opposed to fees at Fort Williams Park. I have completely changed my stance on that as a result of the visitor influx.”
“It’s clearly not the community park it once was,” Kerney said.
“It is surprising to me that here at the public hearing this evening and in the lead- up to this that we have not received very much public input on this,” Chairman Jamie Garvin said. “There has not been any great groundswell of people in either opposition or proponents of this.”
The council tabled approval of the proposed school budget to May 13 so approval will occur within 30 days of the scheduled June 11 voter validation referendum, as required by state law. The municipal budget will also be decided on May 13.
The proposed $42 million combined spending plan includes $13.4 million for local government and $26.9 million for schools, with an overall increase of 6.5%.
Tax rates are estimated to increase from $19.02 to $19.76 per $1,000 of valuation. The proposed 74-cent increase would add $222 to the bill for a home valued at $300,000 and an additional $370 for a home valued at $400,000.
The council also unanimously approved nine special-fund budgets, ranging from the Spurwink Church Fund to the Fort Williams Park Fund. The Fort Williams Park Capital Fund has an estimated increase of more than $117,700, or 68%, which will be used for infrastructure, investing in park projects, and funding for the master plan, according to Sturgis.
In other business, Sturgis was awarded a $2,000 bonus based on a positive evaluation by the council. The one-time addition to the his $112,500 salary was unanimously supported by councilors.
Free parking for nonresidents who visit Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth will soon be a thing of the past.