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SCARBOROUGH — Despite the efforts of some Higgins Beach residents, surfers and winter beach-goers will still be able to park along the beach during the off-season – for now.
As midnight approached Wednesday, the Town Council unanimously tabled until Dec. 15 proposed changes to the parking ordinance for the Higgins Beach area.
The proposals include limiting on-street parking to 30 minutes during the off season, creating a five-minute drop off area during the summer, and giving the Higgins Beach Inn exclusive rights to some town-owned parking spaces.
“I think we need to try something and see if it works,” Council Chairwoman Judy Roy said.
The issue has pitted homeowners against winter those who use the beach periodically during the off season. Homeowners claimed the surfers were routinely changing in front of their homes, exposing themselves and urinating on people’s lawns.
Surfers said there may have been a few people who broke the rules, but that this was an issue of enforcement. They also called the parking ban an erosion of access to a public beach.
With more than 30 people still in the audience when the issue finally came up on Wednesday’s agenda, some councilors wanted to discuss ideas for compromise.
“We’ve got to somehow come to a consensus on how this is going to end,” Councilor Ron Ahlquist said, adding that the town’s recent purchase of the parking lot near the beach was giving more people access, not limiting the public’s access.
“If we didn’t buy this parking lot, there were people waiting there to buy it and put two houses on it,” he said. “For people to say Scarborough is restricting access to beach, I’m tired of hearing it. We don’t want to deny access to beach, we want to enhance it.”
Everyone who spoke during the public forum was against limiting parking along the beach, and a group led by Douglas Lund-Yates turned in a petition signed by more than 500 people asking the town not to limit parking along the beach.
“There is a lot of anger and disbelief,” Lund-Yates said. “Many people can’t understand why the town would want to restrict on-street parking in off-season.”
Some called the ad hoc Higgins Beach Committee, made up of mostly beach residents, not representative of the whole town.
“A more inclusive group should be convened to do a thorough study to bring reasonable proposals to the town council,” Kerry Corthell said.
Several speakers from outside of Scarborough told the council about their love of the beach. Others were residents of the Higgins Beach area who disagreed with the findings of the committee.
“I haven’t heard any compelling reason for limiting parking. If we have problems with the way some people are behaving, that’s a public safety issue,” Adam Steinman, a Higgins Beach resident, said. “To couple this (parking restriction) with safety is disingenuous.”
When Councilor Michael Wood began to discuss pushing the on-street parking limitations through in favor of better-marketing the new town parking lot, some people in the audience responded by yelling and disagreeing with him.
“There are so many things to discuss. I really don’t feel that I can do justice to this at 11:25 at night,” Councilor Carol Rancourt said.
At that point, the council voted to table until its Dec. 15 meeting, when the topic will be first on the agenda.
Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or firstname.lastname@example.org