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Town to determine best approach for management, enforcement before deciding on parking fees for Fort Williams Park

Before deciding whether to begin charging out-of-town residents to park at Fort Williams Park, the town will determine the best approach for managing equipment and enforcing the proposed pay/display program.

The Town Council on Nov. 14, 2018 authorized Town Manager Matthew Sturgis to solicit proposals for pay/display parking units and for enforcement of parking fees. The proposals would give the town an idea of what it would cost to either purchase or lease the equipment, and for third-party enforcement.

"This is an important, needed step in order to get a lot of specific and critical information to be able to make a fully formed decision," said Town Councilor Jamie Garvin.

The requests-for-proposals would be sent out in January, according to a program synopsis prepared by Sturgis. At the same time, the council's ordinance subcommittee will be drafting language to accommodate a parking program at the park. [news article]

Once the ordinance is approved and the best approach for equipment and enforcement is chosen, the town will have a "complete package" for pay/display parking that the council can vote up or down. If it is approved, it could be in place for the 2019 season, Sturgis said.

Public input

The town will need to publicize the new fees before they go into effect, but Councilor Garvin said the public will have a say long before any decision is made. "There will need to be a level of public engagement on this," he said. "What we are doing tonight is taking one step to try and advance all of this to the point where an entire, fully considered proposal -- along with the supporting ordinances that would be necessary to enact this -- would be something on the table for not only the council but the public to weigh in on."

Here are some highlights of the parking-fee proposal as of Nov. 14: [download manager's synopsis]

  • Fees collected May 1-Nov. 1 only
  • Ten meters would be installed in five premium areas of the park, covering 270 parking spaces
  • Areas for free parking to the rear of the park (Playground, Children's Garden, Officers Row areas)
  • Non-residents would pay:
    • $2 with a minimum of 2 hours ($4 minimum per visit).
    • $10 full day
    • $15 seasonal pass
  • Cape Elizabeth residents would park for free with a pass available at the police department

Initally the plan was to charge Cape residents a nominal fee to comply with federal and state grants used in the park, but, because the proposed fees are "reasonable" compared to fees in surrounding areas, the charge for Cape residents will not be required.

Town Council Chair Jessica Sullivan, serving at her last meeting as a councilor Nov. 14, said she hoped the next council would implement the parking fees. "I see this as a critical budget issue for the town," she said. Taxpayers contribute $250,000 for the park above any revenues received, and the town has deferred $6 million worth of park maintenance, she said. "Because of the explosive use in Fort Williams we have management issues, we need people on the ground - there's a great deal that needs to happen there so I'm certainly hoping the council will move forward with this," Sullivan said.

Over the last decade the number of visitors has nearly doubled, from 190,000 park visits (estimated 500,000 visitors) in 2009 to 277,000 visits (estimated 900,000 visitors) in 2018, Sturgis said in his report to the council. The percentage of out-of-state visitors rose from 28 percent to 60 percent. "This increase in volume is expected to continue," Sturgis said.