Time may be running out for free parking at Cape Elizabeth’s Fort Williams Park

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CAPE ELIZABETH — Despite two failed referendums, the Town Council is continuing down a road toward charging for parking at Fort Williams Park.

The Fort Williams Park Committee was directed by the council Monday to research how it could be done.

The council on June 11 also amended the Business A District on Shore Road to allow up to three used cars to be sold at repair shops.

The town sent the question of implementing parking fees at Fort Williams Park to referendum votes in 2006 and 2010; both were defeated.

Charging fees for parking came back to the council in February and was discussed in two succeeding workshops. Town Manager Matt Sturgis told councilors Monday he is looking for direction before moving forward.

Committee Chairman Jim Walsh encouraged councilors not to send the question to another referendum, but rather to make the decision themselves.

“I think (making the decision) is what you folks were elected to do,” he said, noting that the committee backed them and would help in any way possible.

“You have a tough decision in front of you and the committee’s here to support and help,” Walsh said.

Sturgis estimated the town could make approximately $400,000 in the first year from pay-and-display meters, assuming a $2-an-hour fee for a minimum of two hours. Councilor Sara Lennon said she thought the fee could be higher – at least $3.

Included in the recently adopted $12.4 million budget is $50,000 to implement pay-and-display parking meters at Fort Williams Park – if the council decides to institute it, which Sturgis said is “subject to much further discussion.”

Sturgis also suggested a lease-purchase agreement, if the council opts to install the meters, which he estimated would cost $4,000-$5,000 per meter.

Because the park receives federal grants, fees would have to apply to all visitors, including town residents, although they could be charged a reduced, seasonal rate. Councilors may also consider charging out-of-state visitors more than Mainers, or some other tiered system.

Other variables could include weather and the duration of a fee-collecting season.

Councilors on Monday also discussed entrance fees at the gate, but most said that would not be the best option.

Chairwoman Jessica Sullivan said pay-and-display had always been the “most attractive” means of charging to use the park.

Councilor Jamie Garvin said he was not opposed to the idea of parking fees, but would prefer to first exhaust all other possible revenue streams, including raising the ceiling for user fees for certain areas and amenities.

Garvin urged the council to take things slowly and gather concrete answers from the Fort Williams Park Committee on such things as how many cars the park can accommodate, how many out-of-state cars enter the park per week on average compared to how many Maine-registered vehicles, and if the meters could handle tiered fees.

“I’m not prepared to at all move forward with a decision on anything that is slightly more than back-of-the-napkin math,” Garvin said.

Used car sales

The used car sales change was requested by owners of Cape Elizabeth Service Center, at 560 Shore Road.

The amendments recommended to the council by the Planning Board create a definition for a repair garage and then allow the sale of up to three cars at a time as part of the use, but only in the Business A District on Shore Road.

Ray Clark owns the repair shop with his wife, Michelle. He said on Monday that, with the zoning change, he could go to the state to request used car plates.

“I don’t want a used car lot,” he clarified. “But I do have people that would like to purchase cars and I just want to offer that service.”

The amendment limits the number of cars to three, and no change in the sign regulation is included.

The council unanimously approved the Planning Board’s recommendation with little discussion.

Sturgis stressed that the amendment language only applies to repair garages in the zone.

“If there is a concern or a fear that anyone could walk forward and open up a car dealership on Shore Road without this link, then that’s not going to happen,” he said.

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

The Fort Williams Park Committee has been directed to look into how the town may implement parking fees at Fort Williams Park.

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