Debate continues over Higgins Beach parking in Scarborough

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SCARBOROUGH — More than 80 people turned out for Wednesday night’s Town Council meeting on proposed parking changes at Higgins Beach.

Many spoke during the public hearing, some in favor of aspects of a compromise plan proposed by Council Chairwoman Judy Roy and others opposed, particularly to a proposal to allow parking along the beach in the summer. 

“I’m not crazy about parking along Bayview (Avenue) in the summer,” Black Point Road resident Sue Foley Ferguson said. “But for you to consider any changes in off season doesn’t make sense. Why take more spaces when you don’t need it?”

An initial proposal by an ad hoc committee charged with evaluating parking at the beach was to limit off-season parking to 30 minutes along Bayview Avenue and prohibit parking entirely in the summer. Currently, there is no parking along the beach in the summer.

Roy’s proposal also would restrict people from parking along Acorn Lane during the summer, something that is currently allowed.

Acorn Lane resident Lucia Jones noted her street has been promoted as a public parking zone during the summer. “I have no recourse if people are parking in front of my mailbox, driving on my lawn,” she said.

Several other Acorn Lane residents spoke out in favor of adding the road to the list of prohibited parking areas.

In addition to eliminating in-season parking on Acorn Lane, the original recommendation by the ad hoc Higgins Beach committee recommended limiting off-season parking, used frequently by surfers, to 30 minutes along Bayview Avenue.

“There’s not a whole lot of issues in the off season, and lots of issues in the on season,” said Surfrider Foundation attorney Adam Steinman, who spoke during the hearing.

Steinman cautioned councilors not to use a recently purchased town parking lot near the beach as a reason to eliminate spaces along the streets.

“To think we have a whole lot more parking spaces because we have a parking lot is wrong. That parking lot has always been there. This is not going to expand parking,” he said.

However, several Higgins Beach residents spoke about surfers changing into wet suits along the street, something they say, is a nuisance. Some have taken photos of surfers changing and sent those photos to the councilors.

“When you can have someone snapping pictures from their front window of the abuses, it’s a problem,” said Higgins Beach resident Bill Donovan. “Surfers don’t intend to be a problem, but they are.”

The new town parking lot is proposed to have changing space and restroom facilities, although those facilities have not been constructed.

Sandy Point Lane resident Ben Keller took time-lapse photos, every 10 minutes, for  much of the month of December 2010 with a camera pointing to Bayview Avenue and he said during the hearing that the only time parking was an issue was during the Polar Dip on New Year’s Day. He provided DVDs of the photos to all of the councilors.

“This is indisputable proof there isn’t a parking issue in the off season,” he said.

The council is expected to vote on the issue at its next meeting, Jan. 19.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net

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