On Tuesday, November 16, the City Council’s Economic Development Subcommittee discussed at length several options for raising additional revenue for the City to pay for ongoing maintenance and capital improvements in the downtown area, and specifically the Midtown Mall. The City owns the parking lot there and is responsible for all costs associated with it, including plowing, striping, paving, shoveling the stairs, mulching, etc. The parking lot is currently undergoing improvements including new lighting and a pedestrian walkway, but Community Development Director Ian Houseal said there are drainage issues and it needs full repaving. All agreed that providing the businesses at the Midtown Mall with free parking at the taxpayers’ expense is not a sustainable option for the long term.
The following proposals were discussed:
- A Special Assessment District, which would in essence be an additional property tax on downtown properties. Deputy Mayor Herlihy, who owns property downtown, said she didn’t mind paying for Main St. maintenance, but bristled at the idea of paying additional taxes to maintain a parking lot that only benefits certain businesses. Councilor Hanselmann said it could deter businesses from locating in downtown Sanford, and property owners from investing here. Mayor Mastraccio noted that this solution was proposed several years ago but abandoned.
- Parking meters: Mayor Mastraccio suggested each business have a couple of 15-minute spots by its front door, with the rest of the lot being metered. This is another suggestion that was previously proposed but not acted upon. Mr. Buck said the previous metering proposal showed that it would pay for the cost of enforcement and bring in revenue that could be used for maintenance and upgrades. A number of high-tech options are available including license plate scanning.
- Leasing spaces: Most of the spaces in the lot are used by employees of the surrounding businesses, including Partners Bank. Businesses could purchase all-day passes so their employees wouldn’t have to put money in a meter.
The three Subcommittee members (Mayor Mastraccio, Deputy Mayor Herlihy and Councilor Ayn Hanselmann) agreed that it was important to get input from the business owners whose employees and customers use the parking lot before making any final decisions. They were also all in agreement that the issue should not be put off any longer. “It’s time,” said Mayor Mastraccio, “we have to solve this problem.”
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