Scarborough panel proposes Higgins Beach parking restrictions
SCARBOROUGH — A ban on public parking for more than 30 minutes along the road at Higgins Beach moved closer to reality after a committee presentation Wednesday evening.
The Town Council heard from the ad hoc Higgins Beach Committee regarding the proposed ban and several other changes in the area.
"Our hope is, by town purchasing the parking lot, that it gives visitors a place to park and helps reduce any friction between residents and users of beach," said Jeff Jones of the Higgins Beach Committee.
The town purchased a parking lot near the beach this spring and is looking to install bathroom and changing facilities, in addition to managing the lot.
Jones expressed concerns that surfers and other beach users get undressed along the road in front of the beach and relieve themselves in the dune bushes, which has led to disagreements between beach-front homeowners and visitors.
Councilors also heard from several citizens, including a group that has collected 300 signatures, asking the council to make the parking rules at Higgins Beach the same as all the other beaches in town.
Unrestricted parking along Higgins Beach is allowed from Oct. 1 through April 1, while at all other beaches in Scarborough beach-side parking is allowed Sept. 15 through May 1.
Surfrider Foundation Chairwoman Janice Parente spoke in opposition to the parking ban.
"Look for the data," Parente said. "For example, safety claims. Look for traffic safety claims and compare them to surf condition history. Validate these claims and how they relate to parking before you take any rights away from citizens."
In addition to the parking ban, the committee recommended the parking spaces beside the Higgins Beach Inn be available exclusively to the inn year-round for no charge.
"I'm concerned about consistency in our decisions," Council Chairwoman Carol Rancourt said, referring to a recent deal with the Pine Point Lobstermen's Co-op that requires the co-op to pay a fee to the town for the use of parking spaces in a town-owned lot.
Mirroring Rancourt's statement, Councilor Michael Wood said he would like to see negotiations between the town and Higgins Beach Inn similar to those between the Co-op and the town.
"It's a matter of principal and a matter of fairness," Wood said.
Other proposals included the addition of a drop-off area at the beach that would help alleviate traffic congestion during the summer. Also, the committee recommended adding signs instructing visitors to parking and the drop-off zone.
Rezoning Elmwood Drive
During a public hearing, councilors heard from eight residents of the Green Acres neighborhood, which borders a Maine Department of Transportation-owned parcel proposed for a zoning change that would allow a bio-medical commercial development next door to the residential neighborhood. The property is currently up for sale.
The residents all asked the council not to change the zone.
Councilor Michael Wood explained that the six-acre plot could currently be developed into a school, day-care center or hospice.
The Scarborough Economic Development Corp. has proposed the zoning change, encouraging the town to be proactive rather than reactive.
Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or firstname.lastname@example.org