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Freeport eyes easing village parking requirements

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Freeport eyes easing village parking requirements

FREEPORT — Residents and business owners will have an opportunity to weigh in on proposed changes to downtown parking requirements during a public hearing at the next Town Council meeting.

The meeting, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 3, will be held in Council Chambers at Town Hall. The council will also tackle a $140,000 budget shortfall and appoint an interim member of the School Board.

The proposed parking changes are based on a 2012 Village District Parking Study. The study found that the downtown area has nearly 2,900 parking spaces, an amount that is "adequate to meet the parking demand."

Parking requirements are determined by square-footage and other factors. The current formula was developed in the 1980s and '90s – a period of notable retail growth. To better reflect the current economic climate in Freeport, the council will consider several options, including whether to:

• Reduce parking requirements for upper-level office space by 50 percent.

• Require one parking spot per residential apartment, rather than two.

• Exempt public restrooms from being counted toward a business' square-footage.

• Reduce parking requirements for upper-level or basement businesses and restaurants by 50 percent.

• Waive parking requirements for the first 1,000 square feet of space within retail businesses and restaurants.

If adopted, the impact of these changes will result in 101 fewer parking spaces required of downtown businesses, restaurants and landlords.

Village parking regulations were first introduced in 1976, then revised over the next 30 years. In 2007, a study determined that the parking supply in Freeport had increased by more than 600 spaces since the 1990s and the number of spaces was ample.

The council will also decide how to plug a $140,000 budget shortfall, which resulted from the Legislature's reduction in revenue sharing to Maine municipalities.

The options before the council are to cut services, raise taxes or tap a fund that was set aside to absorb impacts from tax spikes. At an Aug. 20 meeting, several councilors favored tapping the fund, but the issue was tabled to gather more information.

The council will also fill an interim position on the Regional School Unit 5 Board of Directors – a vacancy created by Brenda Kielty's resignation earlier this summer. Any candidates will be asked to present their qualifications to the council for the temporary position. Kielty's term was set to expire in November.

Ben McCanna can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or bmccanna@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @BenMcCanna.