The Biddeford City Council will consider this week whether to schedule a public meeting to answer questions and listen to feedback about a new parking plan that the city plans to implement this month.

Mayor Alan Casavant and City Council President John McCurry are asking the council to support scheduling the meeting to “answer any questions, clarify any confusion, present an overview of parking-related issues facing the community, and show how various projects and issues are connected and how the city is responding to these issues,” according to city officials.

The request for the meeting comes a week after a resident filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the city from implementing a council-approved parking plan that would require people to pay to park in municipal lots in the downtown area. Users of the lots would either buy a monthly pass from the city or pay by the hour at kiosks. Parking on city streets would continue to be free but limited to two hours.

Parking has been a hot-button issue in Biddeford as the city experiences a surge of redevelopment in the downtown mill district. A small group of residents has pushed back against assertions by city officials that more parking is needed to accommodate downtown employees and residents, and has balked at the idea of a municipally funded parking garage.

City officials say the new parking plan was designed to address a parking shortage in the city and free up spots on the street for people who are visiting. Many of those spots are currently used by people who work downtown. Officials also say the plan is consistent with the results of a 2014 referendum calling for a ban on parking meters on downtown streets.

But resident Jason Litalien believes the city is violating the referendum results and has filed motions in York County Superior Court to try to stop the city from moving forward with the plan. His first motion filed last month for a temporary restraining order was denied, but he has since filed for a preliminary injunction.

Casavant said he is asking the council for the open forum because it would eliminate many of the formal rules of City Council meetings and allow residents and city officials to have a conversation.

“This meeting is timely because there continues to be a great deal of misinformation circulating about parking. To really understand the issue, you need to understand the big-picture goals the city is trying to achieve,” Casavant said in a written statement.

Councilor Norman Belanger, who chairs the Downtown Committee, said he supports holding the meeting because offering residents a chance to ask questions and offer comments “may help dispel misconceptions.”

Details about the date, time and format of the meeting will be decided if the council agrees Thursday to hold the meeting.

 


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