Westport Harbor’s roadside parking ban challenged

Issue arises after beachfront landowner seeks guest beach passes

By Bruce Burdett
Posted 6/7/19

WESTPORT — A ban on roadside parking anywhere in the Westport Harbor area will get a second look in the wake of one property owner’s request for a few open beach parking passes that he could give …

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Westport Harbor’s roadside parking ban challenged

Issue arises after beachfront landowner seeks guest beach passes

Posted

WESTPORT — A ban on roadside parking anywhere in the Westport Harbor area will get a second look in the wake of one property owner’s request for a few open beach parking passes that he could give to visiting family and friends for use along Beach Avenue.

With some misgivings, selectmen last week granted two (instead of the four he had requested) “non-specific” beach passes to Brian Corey who owns oceanfront property along Beach Avenue, for this summer only.

Mr, Corey said he needs the passes to enable visiting out-of-town guests to join him at his beachfront land a few times a summer, and especially for an annual campout that he holds there.

Before that vote, selectman Brian Valcourt questioned a town regulation that prohibits roadside parking in that part of town.

“You can’t pull over and park and go for a walk on a single road down at the Harbor … unlike everywhere else in town. Why is the Harbor special?”

Mr. Corey said that the parking prohibition dates back to the 1990s when Fourth of July parties caused people to park alongside River Road and Atlantic Avenue, which sparked safety complaints.

“I’m not trying to change that,” Mr. Corey said, just have the ability for guests to visit my property.

“You may not but I am,” Mr. Valcourt said. “That (parking ban) was done extremely arbitrarily.” Selectmen at that time “voted an entire 10-square miles of our town off limits. I think that’s wrong and should be changed.”

He asked that the bigger matter of harbor-area parking be placed on a future agenda — that discussion was scheduled for the June 24 selectmen meeting.

Precedent or not?

As for Mr. Corey’s request, Mr. Valcourt called it “ridiculous” that he can’t invited people to park at his own property.

Town Administrator Tim King, however, twice cautioned the board against granting non-vehicle-specific beach passes to Mr. Corey’s out-of-town guests.

“The board should be very careful about doing something like this without consulting the Beach Committee. You don’t want to create a permit that is not vehicle specific because there are many people who might want to have that same opportunity,” Mr. King said.

But just at its last meeting, the board approved non-specific parking permits for the Town Landing and the beach for non-profits, Mr. Corey countered. We haven’t complained about people using our beach, he said, adding that he is also reluctant to carve out parking spaces on his land alongside Beach Avenue because that can’t be done without disturbing the dunes.

“I don’t think this could set any sort of precedent.”

He said that, years ago, the town allowed private individuals to block East Beach Road with a gate “and those individuals wouldn’t give me a key — so it was a very uncomfortable situation.”

Board Chairwoman Shana Shufelt called Mr. Corey’s situation unique “because he owns a substantial piece of land down there.” However, there are other landowners down there and we have denied requests in the past. Some of the properties in that area are vacation rentals that “might ask for the same thing,” although they already have off-street parking of their own.

Why not drive your guests to the beach or let them drive one of your cars that has a beach sticker, Mr. King asked.

Mr. Corey said he didn’t feel he should be required to do that in order to have guests visit his land. “I’m trying to do it the right way,” Mr. Cory said. All I’m asking is just give me a couple of open permits that I will pay for.”

Mr. Valcourt made a motion that Mr. Corey be allowed two open beach passes — for this summer only to see how it works out, and the motion passed.

Selectman Steven Ouellette said he supports the motion because the town has taken a portion of Mr. Coirey’s property along Beach Avenue.

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.