South Portland winter parking ban: Necessity or hidden tax?

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SOUTH PORTLAND — With temperatures hovering in the 70s, the city’s winter parking ban is perhaps the furthest thing from people’s minds.

That is, unless you’re Willard Street resident Zoo Cain.

“I love this town,” Cain said. “But there are some things, like this, that send me through the roof.”

Cain and Councilor Rosemarie De Angelis are lobbying the City Council to revisit the 44-year-old policy that prohibits on-street, overnight parking from Nov. 1 to April 1. 

De Angelis and Cain said that rarely are there storms worthy of such parking bans, especially in the months of November and March. They claim the policy essentially places a hidden tax on residents.

Sue Borelli, the office manager in the city’s Finance Department, said the city this year has collected about $31,000 in fees associated with parking violations.

Although she couldn’t determine how much of the total is the result of the winter parking ban, Borelli said winter parking infractions account for the majority.

Although councilors last week opposed changing the ordinance, Cain has vowed to fight on in hopes increasing public pressure on the council.

“This is huge inconvenience for residents,” he said.

At last week’s workshop, most councilors, along with the officials from the Public Works, Police and Fire departments, said the inconvenience caused by the five-month parking ban is an acceptable trade-off for ensuring the safety of residents. 

“There are valid arguments to change this ordinance, but none that I would support,” Police Chief Edward Googins said.

Fire Chief Kevin Guimond said there are some city streets that are almost too narrow for emergency vehicles when there isn’t any snow. Repealing the parking ban would only make winter rescues more difficult, he said.

De Angelis, meanwhile, reminded her peers that the parking ban only spans the overnight hours from midnight to 6 a.m. Otherwise, cars can be parked on the street, she said.

The parking ban is a particular hardship for residents of multi-family buildings, she said.

“The imposition on our residents is pretty significant,” De Angelis said. “These are really hidden taxes to our residents. Is that what we want?”

Cain said it doesn’t make sense to ticket cars when there isn’t any snow on the ground, but Googins said that officers are instructed to give people warnings during the first two weeks of November and relax enforcement later in the year.

“Discretion is the better part of valor,” Googins said.

Councilor Linda Boudreau said she doesn’t mind if the council wants to change the parking rules, but only under one condition.

“If you consider doing this, please wait until I’m gone,” said Boudreau, who is prevented from seeking re-election because of term limits. “I have serious concerns about the safety of our streets.”

Meanwhile, there are some indications that reopening the debate on winter parking bans could have the opposite effect.

“I wouldn’t be adverse to seeing it start earlier,” Councilor Jim Hughes said. “I understand this is an inconvenience, but it’s an inconvenience you’re going to have to put up with.”

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or