Parking pamphlet approved by committee

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By Ben Meiklejohn
Staff Writer

Several downtown businesses in Biddeford are displaying signs urging people to vote against installing parking meters downtown. This sign appears in the window of Three D’s Variety on Main Street. (Ben Meiklejohn photo) Several downtown businesses in Biddeford are displaying signs urging people to vote against installing parking meters downtown. This sign appears in the window of Three D’s Variety on Main Street. (Ben Meiklejohn photo) BIDDEFORD – The ad hoc downtown parking education committee unanimously approved a brochure designed by Heart of Biddeford that will be distributed to residents in advance of the upcoming referendum on parking meters. The referendum asks voters if the city should install parking meters downtown.

At previous meetings, members had debated whether they should be educating residents about available parking options downtown or provide summary information about the results of various parking studies commissioned by the city. Mayor Alan Casavant said the reason the committee was created was to summarize the results of the studies.

“The sole objective was to come up with a presentation … look at what the city has analyzed … and put together information,” Casavant said. “You went off (track) a little bit.”

Casavant said the information needed to be disseminated to the public before the upcoming referendum vote because the parking plan “is not about parking meters. Parking meters were just a small part of the whole parking strategy.”

“It’s how you put them together that it’s vital.”

Casavant said the city council had accepted the 2012 parking study conducted by the firms Rich and Associates and Winston Scott Architects, but never approved a specific parking management plan, mainly because the study gave a variety of options the city could pursue, depending on circumstances downtown.

Economic and Community Development Director Daniel Stevenson said the wording of the referendum question, which asks, “Shall the city of Biddeford install parking meters in the greater downtown Biddeford area?” is misleading because it leads residents to believe the city is proactively trying to get meters installed.

“I want to clear up some misconceptions about how we got to this point,” Stevenson said. “To clarify some of the things I’ve been hearing, the city is not pushing the meter referendum. It’s not … from the city. The reason for that is that the city sees the whole package, the whole piece. The city is not pushing the question.”

After the question qualified to appear on the ballot, Casavant formed the downtown parking education committee as a mayoral ad hoc committee to educate the public about the study. The committee originally intended for Rich and Associates to design the summary brochure. Last week, Heart of Biddeford Executive Director Delilah Poupore began designing the flier instead. Stevenson said the change was made “mostly because of timing” and organizational capacity.

Paul Therrien, a Ward 2 resident who helped collect signatures to place the referendum on the ballot, said the question will help the city determine which direction to go when pursuing a future parking management plan.

“We need to know if the community wants parking meters downtown,” Therrien said. “If the community says yes, we know where to go, we know which way to go. If it says no, that’s just an adjustment you need to make.”

Therrien said he became involved in the effort to get the question on the ballot because parking meters were being proposed as a way to fund a parking garage that would be built on a private developer’s lot.

“I pay city taxes, I pay state taxes and I pay federal taxes,” Therrien said. “No matter where it comes from, it’s always all of our money.”

Therrien said certain information from the parking studies – such as the city’s surface lots not being fully utilized – is not included in the brochure designed by Poupore.

Therrien criticized the brochure’s statement that the city “falls short” of the recommendation in which at least 50 percent of available parking downtown should be owned by the city.

“It should show (on the brochure) that we’re at 45 percent,” Therrien said. “Yes, that falls short, but we’re almost there.”

Therrien also said a section of the brochure titled “Implications,” which highlights both implications for the future and implications of either result of the referendum question, should not be in the brochure.

“I would leave that out,” Therrien said.

The brochure states: “A ‘No’ vote means the City cannot consider meters as part of an overall parking management plan. A ‘Yes’ vote means that the City shall install meters. The referendum question does not refer to when this must happen.”

After hearing input and presentations from Casavant, Stevenson, Poupore and Therrien, the committee unanimously approved the brochure design without comment.

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2014-10-16 / Front Page

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