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Freeport council postpones public hearing on parking

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Freeport council postpones public hearing on parking

FREEPORT — A public hearing on downtown parking rules was postponed Tuesday for two weeks, but that didn't stop the discussion.

The parking issue was just one item during a lengthy Town Council meeting that included the appointment of an interim member to the Regional School Unit 5 Board of Directors and the plugging of a $140,000 budget gap.

The Town Council tabled its public hearing on village parking requirements a few hours after Town Manager Peter Joseph discovered that the town website contained erroneous documents relating to the discussion.

Joseph said the supporting documents on the website didn't include amendments recommended by the Planning Board, which were the substance of the council's planned discussion. The hearing was rescheduled for Sept. 17 to avoid any confusion.

Nonetheless, Chairman Jim Hendricks allowed nearly 45 minutes of public comments from business owners, attorneys and other parties, which suggested the public hearing will feature a wide range of impassioned opinions.

Village parking regulations were first introduced in 1976, then revised on several occasions 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. In 2012, a separate study found that the downtown area has nearly 2,900 parking spaces, an amount that is "adequate to meet the parking demand."

Later in the meeting, the council unanimously appointed Valeria Steverlynck to an interim post on the RSU 5 Board of Directors.

Steverlynck, a mother of three school-aged children with a background in art education, was chosen over Chris Leighton, an 11-year veteran of the Freeport School Committee, after brief interviews of both candidates.

The board chose Steverlynck because she expressed a desire to run for the position in the November election, while Leighton said he was unprepared to make the commitment for the upcoming term.

The School Board vacancy was created earlier this summer when Brenda Kielty resigned after moving out of the district. Kielty's term was set to expire in November, so Steverlynck will serve for about two months. Steverlynck is  preparing to submit nomination papers to get on the November ballot, she said.

The council also voted unanimously to use the town's fund balance to plug a $140,000 budget shortfall, which resulted from the Legislature's reduction in revenue sharing to Maine municipalities.

The council's options were to cut services, raise taxes, tap a fund that was set aside to absorb impacts from tax spikes or use the fund balance.

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