Portland councilors roll through parking, golf cart rules for islanders

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PORTLAND — Island life was a key focus at Monday’s City Council meeting, while the future of open land on the city’s outskirts remained unsettled.

Councilors voted to continue to allow permits to be granted to island residents for all-day parking on sections of Thames and Hancock streets near the waterfront, while also expanding nearby parking on Fore Street to help meet demand.

The council also referred the larger question of providing in-town parking for island residents to its Transportation & Sustainability Committee for review. The discussion will include whether to remove parking meters on the south side of Thames Street to open more spaces for island residents.

New regulations governing golf cart use on the Casco Bay islands were also approved.

“I don’t want to be known as the parking councilor, I’d rather be known for something more sustainable,” Councilor Belinda Ray said as she proposed adding 30 spaces on the north side of Fore Street between Mountfort and Waterville streets.

Noting the special situation created by island life and the cost and lack of capacity on the Casco Bay Lines car ferry, Ray said adding spaces on Fore Street would help alleviate the pinch of spaces lost during development at Hancock and Thames streets.

Councilors decided to forward the amendment opening more spaces on the south side of Thames Street, near the Ocean Gateway Terminal and across the street from spaces allocated for islanders, but affected by construction.

Removing meters from Thames Street spaces could cost the city $16,000 to $20,000 annually, City Manager Jon Jennings said.

Amendments to regulations on golf carts used on Casco Bay islands include setting a 20 mph speed limit, requiring headlights and reflective tape for night time use, and requiring all passengers to use vehicle seats. Passengers will not be allowed to carry infants or children on their laps.

Ray said the rule changes complete work that began about a year ago. Cart operators no longer have to be 21 years old, but must have a valid driver’s license.

State Rep. Michael Sylvester, D-Portland, and Robert O’Brien both operate cart rental services on the islands and were generally supportive of the rule changes.

“Most of the ordinance in there now is standard operating procedure for us,” O’Brien said. 

Sylvester noted the speed limit has actually doubled, but most carts are already built to exceed the old speed limit.

O’Brien welcomed the restriction on letting passengers ride on laps.

“We tell people ‘babies make lousy airbags,'” he said.

On the farm

While the council agenda called for a second reading and vote on requested zoning changes at 1700-1714 Westbrook St., action was postponed to July 24, with a council workshop scheduled for July 10.

Opponents objected to Monday’s second reading of the request from Camelot Holdings to increase housing density by changing more than 50 acres of land in Stroudwater from R-1 zoning to a hybrid of R-3 and open space zoning. 

City Corporation Counsel Danielle West-Chuhta said councilors did not violate public meeting rules by having the second reading on Monday’s agenda without properly advertising it, and Mayor Ethan Strimling invited public comment on the zoning request.

The zoning change request was given a first read on June 5, but Councilor David Brenerman also suggested it should be the topic of a workshop before a second reading, public hearing and vote.

Developers have provided a preliminary plan for 96 house lots on the 45 acres at 1700 Westbrook St. where the Rogers family operated Camelot Farm. Plans also call for multi-unit housing on the adjacent 9 acres at 1714 Westbrook St., bordering the Maine Turnpike. The development would also provide at least 15 acres of open space for public use.

However, anyone speaking Monday would not have been allowed to speak again July 24, when councilors have scheduled action on the request following a public hearing.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Portland City Hall, 389 Congress St.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.