Parking meters could be coming to Higgins Beach in Scarborough

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SCARBOROUGH — The Town Council voted Wednesday to re-establish one-hour parking along Bayview Avenue at Higgins Beach, with a proposal to add parking meters to be considered at the council’s next meeting. 

Councilor Kate St. Clair proposed the first amendment, to restore one-hour parking between 6 and 10 a.m. during the summer. From Sept. 16 to April 30, the measure will not be in effect.

Her amendment reversed a previous proposal by Chairwoman Jessica Holbrook, which would have reduced street parking to 30 minutes.

The amendment was unanimously approved, with the exception of Councilor Bill Donovan, who lives in the neighborhood and recused himself.

Some councilors wavered. Councilor Ed Blaise spoke in favor of prohibiting parking along Higgins Beach. 

“My feeling is that we should eliminate parking all together down there, 365 days a year, except for handicapped (spaces),” Blaise said. “We’re talking about only limiting the parking to one hour from May 1 to September, and then we have the rest of the year and it’s going to be the same old zoo that it is right now. It’s a behavioral issue, and it’s terrible.”

Higgins Beach resident Glennis Chabot, of Howard Street, agreed that the issue stems from parking spaces that are close to the beach. 

The addition of the parking spaces in 2011 has “resulted in behaviors that are unacceptable in our neighborhood and would be unacceptable in your neighborhood,” Chabot said. 

“Other beach communities (in Scarborough) do not have these behavior issues and (they) do not have adjacent parking,” she said. “This is not an access issue, this is not an anti-surfer issue, it’s a behavior issue.”

Most councilors agreed with what many residents have been saying − the solution to the parking issue should be solved by police enforcement, rather than a substantial change in the ordinance.

“One of the things that has been consistent, even with those who disagree with how the council is handling it, (is) this is about enforcement,” Councilor Shawn Babine said.

Councilor Jean-Marie Caterina agreed, and said she would only support the one-hour amendment “given that it’s strictly enforced.”

Babine proposed the second amendment, to add parking meters. The amendment was too substantive to include in the second reading of the parking proposal, so it was approved as a first reading, with a second reading scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 21. 

St. Clair and Councilor Peter Hayes opposed the amendment.

“Frankly, I’m not sure what metered parking down there solves,” said Hayes, because meters would still require external enforcement. 

Melissa Gates, northeast regional manager for the Surfrider Foundation, a national organization that protects beach access, suggested holding beach-goers accountable by recording their behavior with video cameras and adding an additional fine for inappropriate behavior.

It would be “less costly and a far more comprehensive approach, addressing a wide swath of issues, not just parking violations,” she said. 

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA

South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.