Berkeley Heights Council Hears Plan to Deal With Governor Livingston Area Parking

Boy Scout Andrew Friedlander of Berkeley Heights Troop 368 presents his Eagle Scout project to install seven historical markers at various points of interest in the township to the township council. Credits: Bob Faszczewski
Berkeley Heights Township Planner Michael Mistretta explains the proposed Governor Livingston High School area parking restrictions. Credits: Bob Faszczewski

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ—Township officials on Tuesday were presented with a new plan for parking restrictions in the area of Governor Livingston High School, but the ball seems to be in the court of the board of education in dealing with student parking on a daily basis.

Although the proposal, presented to the township council by Acting Berkeley Heights Police Lieutenant Robert Deitch and township planner Michael Mistretta, would place two-hour restrictions on a number of streets surrounding the school, the officials said key to the solution to day-to-day parking problems was up to the school board.

Mistretta said while the on-street parking restrictions would help prevent an overflow of parking during athletic and other large-scale events taking place at the school, the daily problem with student parking that has led to a number of resident complaints probably would have to be solved by provision of more student parking on school property.

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The planner suggested that the board expand a parking lot behind the high school onto what he called an “undersized” athletic practice field.

Board of education member, Doug Reinstein, speaking as a township resident, said, however, that, while the practice field might be considered undersized for high school athletic practice, it often was used by organizations such as the Police Athletic League in whose events youngsters as young as second graders participate and for whom the size of the field is sufficient.

He also said that there was only one exit from the high school parking lot and sending an additional 40 to 50 cars from an expanded lot out of this exit would cause conflict.

Mayor Joseph Bruno told Reinstein that the proposed parking lot extension would leave plenty of room for the use of fields behind the school by groups such as the PAL. He also stated that, since the field was school property, its use was up to the board, adding that Tuesday’s presentation would  result in no formal approval and all sides would get a full hearing on the matter.

Meanwhile, the restriction proposals presented by Deitch and Mistretta on Tuesday would limit parking to 8 to 9am and 2:30 to 4 pm Monday through Friday on certain streets and prohibit parking completely on other streets:

Parking would be allowed during the restricted hours along the one side of Burlington Road to its intersection with Murray Hill Boulevard, along one side of Hunterdon Boulevard, along a small stretch of Mercer Road, along one side of Chestnut Hill Drive, Summit Road, Ford Place and Gallinson Road.

In addition, it would allow parking during the restricted hours along the side of Sussex Road closest to Crest Drive and during restricted hours on one side of Crest Drive into the cul-de-sac.

Parking would be prohibited on the sides of many of those streets opposite the sides of those streets where the restricted parking would be allowed, according to Deitch.

However, Sussex Road resident Rose Marie Genco, pointing out that parking on streets adjacent to the township train station is restricted to one hour or less said that it is not fair that parking for other residents should be more restrictive than parking for students.

She also pointed out that the high school’s own website said that parking for students was a privilege and not a right.

Another Sussex Road resident said allowing parking on one side of some streets may not give residents much relief and would not solve such problems as parking opposite resident driveways making it difficult for residents to enter or leave their properties.

Deitch did say township police would step up enforcement of regulations prohibiting parking within 50 feet of a stop sign and within 25 feet of an intersection. He also said police are cracking down on cars that are parked from six to 12 feet from curbs in some areas.

The lieutenant added that, with recent stepped-up enforcement in the area around the high school, crashes have been cut about in half over the last few years.

The lieutenant also said that state regulations allowing only two students to be present in each car have added to the number of cars driven by students at the high school and two measures by school officials to deal with student parking—restriping of lines in the parking lot and assigning spots in the lot on a first-come, first-served basis with seniors given first preference, although well-intentioned, may have forced more student cars onto surrounding streets.

Bruno also said expansion of the parking lot onto the practice field may have to wait until the 2015-2016 school year because the school board already has its budget in place for 2014-2015.

On another matter, Councilman Kevin Hall announced the council would sponsor public hearings on the possible swapping of land between the township and Little Flower parish on September 15, 22 and 29 and October 6, with October 20 set as an extra hearing date should one be needed.

Hall noted the parish had approached the township more than a year ago with a proposal for Little Flower to acquire the land on which the public library currently is located and the township to take over the land on which the Little Flower parish hall and upper campus are located—for use as a possible new municipal complex.

Hall said professionals involved in investigating, negotiating and planning a possible land swap would address specific issues at each of the sessions.

The September 15 meeting will be an overall introduction of the project, explanation of the memorandum of understanding between the township and Little Flower, detailed analysis of the appraisal process and an explanation of the reverter clause contained in the original purchase of the Little Flower land from the township.

September 22 will be a recap of the Harbor Consultants study that led to designation of the area around the current municipal complex as an area in need of redevelopment, deficiences of the various current township buildings and existing and future needs of each with a review of construction cost estimates.

September 29 will feature an analysis of the agreement between the township and the public library, discussions of the deficiencies of the existing library and its future needs and review of construction cost estimates as well as plans for possible relocation of the library to a temporary site during construction.

On October 6 there will be a presentation of the draft of the redevelopment plan  project of its potential tax impact and payment in lieu of taxes. Ir also will feature a presentation on the procurement process and the economics and logistics of scenarios involved both with dealing with the deficiencies in the current complex on the current site and constructing a new complex on the current site or the Little Flower site.

In response to a resident question, the mayor said any resident or township employee who said the Little Flower agreement “was a done deal” had their facts wrong and all facts would be explored before making a decision.

Bruno added, however, that, personally, he thought the Little Flower proposal was the best hope for improving township facilities and maintaining them in top condition for the next 50 years.

On another matter, the governing body heard a presentation by Berkeley Heights Developers, LLC, which is advocating a redevelopment plan for the site of the now-closed Kings Supermarket that would result in construction of a 160-unit luxury apartment complex on the site, with amenities for residents on the first floor and a walking trail to the Berkeley Heights train station.

The township council will have to recommend any redevelopment plan to the planning board and, after date, any specific development proposals would have to include a site plan approval hearing before the planning board.

Tuesday’s council meeting also saw a presentation by former mayor Theodore Romankow of a proposals to combine “seed” money from the township with private donations to reconstruct landscaping and refurbish the flag pole and other areas of the memorial to township veterans at Memorial Park which has fallen into disrepair since it was constructed in 1986.

Romankow said, rather than assigning the task to a committee, the governing body should give its support and place planning in the hands of professionals in the township government and volunteers who have offered to plan the landscaping and donate the plantings.

The council also introduced ordinances setting education requirements for initial appointment to the police department and revising membership rules for the volunteer fire department.

It also approved an agreement with Teamsters Local Union 469, representing public works employees, which includes revisions in employee health care payments and an average salary increase of 2 percent in each of the years of the agreement. It will run from January 1 of this year to December 31, 2018.

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