2018-01-05 / Front Page

Visitor beach parking fees rise

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

Visitors to Scarborough beaches can expect to pay a little bit more to enjoy Ferry, Higgins and Pine Point beaches this year after the town council decided last month to increase non-resident fees in an attempt to have those who live outside of town pay a greater share of beach maintenance and operation expenses.

Council Chairman Bill Donovan said the goal of the rate hike from the ordinance committee’s point of view was “fairness to Scarborough taxpayers.”

“The changes were largely designed to be supportive of Scarborough taxpayers and to try to have the fees carry more of the cost of the services they are associated with,” Donovan said.

Non-residents will now pay $150 for a season beach parking pass, up from $75. The non-resident fees for a season boat launch pass ($75), recreational pier use ($150), commercial pier use ($300), recreational mooring fee ($250) and commercial mooring fee ($400), have also gone up. The changes do not impact how much residents pay for beach parking, boat launch, pier and mooring use.

Councilors also increase the daily parking fee from $10 to $15 and introduced a fee of $5 to park in town-owned lots from 5:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.

Donovan said the $15 daily parking fee was still low, but was “progress” in keeping it in line with how much other communities charge.

The council by a 5-2 vote (with councilors Katy Foley and Peter Hayes opposed) voted to charge a $5 fee to park in the lots from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Previously the change was only levied from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

“There is a substantial amount of traffic that comes in between the hours of 5 and 6 p.m., so in fairness to the taxpayers of Scarborough, we want to have all those who enjoy the beach and all the improvements the town has made, participate in some sort of payment,” Donovan said.

Donovan also suggested at the Dec. 20 council meeting to increase the daily recreational vehicle parking fee from $35 to $45, something that was supported by everyone on the council, except for Hayes.

Councilor Will Rowan, a member of the ordinance committee, said it was an oversight of the committee to not make that recommendation to the council along with the others.

Hayes attempted to table the topic of fee increases until the town begins its budget deliberations in earnest. Rowan said the idea of bringing the fee increases now is to have them in place by the time people begin purchasing beach passes.

“This has always been part of the budget deliberations that go through the finance committee,” Hayes said, before the ask failed to get the support of his fellow councilors, except Foley.

He also unsuccessfully attempted to suspend the 5:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. fee, arguing the council had received complaints about the fee from the public, including the Maine Chapter of Surfrider Foundation, which argued the fee unfairly targeted surfers and suggested a tiered fee system instead.

He asked since beach parking fees more than pay for the cost of upkeeping the beach, is an early morning fee really necessary. Hayes suspects it will cost as much to collect the fee as it brings in.

“Every time we do something in the beach community, we create two sides of the equation. I’ve heard a lot of push back about the morning fee. To a lot of people’s perception, that’s targeting some of the surfers.”

Vice Chairman Chris Caiazzo said the town has “an obligation to maximize” its assets and the $5 morning fee was “non-discriminatory fee because it is not targeting a specific group.”

Foley said she wasn’t upset with the fee increases, but rather the notion that increasing fees would be a barrier for people to access the beach.

“It feels like we keep chipping away constantly at our beach access,” she said.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at news@scarboroughleader.com.

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