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$75 parking fines set for Phillips Beach

A Swampscott Police cruiser is parked at the entrance of Phillips Beach to make sure beach-goers are following the state and town guidelines of beach use. (Spenser Hasak)

SWAMPSCOTT — Visitors illegally parked in residential spaces near Phillips Beach might find a $75 ticket on their windshield after the Select Board voted to accept the Traffic Committee’s recommendation to increase the violation fine from $25 to $75.

The board also voted to increase the number of recreational parking spots on the streets surrounding Phillips Beach from 90 to 145, decrease the number of residential spots from 312 to 257, and increase the number of handicapped spots from two to four. Additional changes included construction of a sidewalk and increased enforcement of littering laws.

Assistant Town Administrator Pete Kane presented the proposed changes at a Select Board Meeting Wednesday night. He said that from the beginning of the year until Tuesday, the town issued a total of 346 parking tickets — 196 of which were written for cars parked in the Phillips Beach neighborhood.

Kane argued that a $25 parking ticket is not a large enough amount to deter illegal parking.

“Those parking citations are a $25 parking ticket. Many don’t necessarily see that as a barrier to parking. If they are going to park in a private lot, generally it’s a lot higher. Here we see that there is potential where the parking ticket may not actually be inhibiting people to park where they’re not allowed,” Kane said.

The Select Board also voted to change the appearance of recreational and residential parking signs, which currently bear the same layout and color scheme, so that drivers can clearly differentiate between the two designated areas.

Fire Chief Graham Archer, who formerly served on the Traffic Advisory Committee, said it was an “issue of fairness” to expand recreational parking in the area amid a perceived increase in demand.

“We feel there is an imbalance between the amount of demand there is to visit the beach and access to the beach and parking,” Archer said. “If there is no demand, then there is no harm to expanding recreational parking. The cars won’t materialize because the signs changed, they just won’t.”

The board voted 4-0 to increase the parking-violation fine, and 3-1 in favor of the other parking changes.

Select Board Member MaryEllen Fletcher said that a potential lack of parking might not be a significant enough issue to take residential spaces away.

Fletcher suggested running a free shuttle to and from the beach on the weekend if parking is an issue.

“I honestly feel that we should be looking at enforcement and really identifying how big of a problem it really is,” Fletcher said. “I would prefer that we think outside the box, work on enforcement, and try to really understand the situation.”

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