2018-03-22 / Letters

‘War’ on paid parking downtown continues

To the editor:

In recent days, I’ve had many people say they’re now comfortable with Biddeford’s parking strategy. In one form or another, they have seen commentary posted or emailed by the mayor. In nearly every case, their perception is that the concept of paid or permit parking downtown was nothing more than rumor-mongering by “naysayers” in the community.

My fear is that these comments are part of fighting a self-described two-front war. With such a strategy, separating the approval of paid parking from moving ahead with a parking garage makes it nearly impossible for the public to see the full picture – until it’s too late. The fact is the decision to build a garage requires a paid parking plan and increased enforcement. While the details of the plan have yet to be ironed out, some form of a paid parking plan must happen to proceed with the garage that we’re moving ahead with. When city officials say that “users” will pay for the garage, this includes users of paid parking throughout the downtown area. People like daytime volunteers at food pantries, employees of small businesses and customers of sit down restaurants will be impacted.

For instance, a food pantry volunteer in my neighborhood will face the following situation. She will look to park on the street but will not be able to without a resident sticker. So, even if the resident sticker is free, it still impacts people. Then she will look to park in on Main Street or Lincoln Street, but that will be too time limited. So, she will wind up in a city lot where she must pay or she’ll have to choose not to volunteer. This same dynamic applies to small business employees and others. Is our expectation that small businesses can afford to pay higher wages to offset this cost?

I believe I’ve read every available public document and watched every available public meeting through this process. The fact is that taxpayer money has been used for studies and staff to put together the start of a plan that included paid parking on multiple streets. If it wasn’t a real option, why did we invest money even putting it into a draft of a plan?

Equally as true is that the draft plans never planned for traditional or electronic parking meters on Main Street. To me, it’s both deceiving and counterproductive for the Mayor to keep highlighting this (especially in bold letters) when I don’t know of anyone who believes this is part of the plan. Instead, why not focus on the facts? Doing so will allow healthy discussion and will foster trust as the various part of the plan are worked out.

The public’s concern isn’t focused on meters on Main Street. Neither was the spirit of most who voted against them in 2014. The concern is about the impact of paid parking, in any form, throughout the downtown area. For the garage investment to work, some cost must be shifted to “users” of parking downtown – that’s been decided. In other words, paid parking downtown is being implemented – it’s just a matter of how. I believe, if we’re more transparent about this, it will lead to a better outcome for the community. This isn’t warfare. The parking garage is not our enemy, the same way our neighbors are not our enemies. We’re all in this together, we all want the best for Biddeford and it’s critical that we don’t get distracted from finding the best solution. With more public participation, I’m confident such a solution is exactly what we’ll find.

Matt Lauzon Biddeford

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