October 16, 2013 at 7:25 AM
SUMMIT, NJ—Those wishing to park in the Summit central business district during the Thanksgiving holidays this year will have an extra day to do so, thanks to approval by the Summit Common Council on Tuesday.
Council general services chair Albert Dill, Jr. said Summit Downtown, Inc. (SDI) had requested the extension of free parking from the traditional Thanksgiving Day and the day following to Thanksgiving Saturday.
Although in favor of the measure, Dill said he was somewhat skeptical that the extra free parking day would bring the results merchants expect. He noted, with the free parking, those employed in downtown business probably would take up the free spaces in the DeForest Avenue lots and people taking advantage of free street parking probably would leave their cars and go elsewhere and would not necessarily be likely to patronize downtown businesses.
Councilman Thomas Getzendanner, although also in favor of promoting downtown businesses, repeated his call for the city to privatize the parking utility.
He noted the parking utility is a $2 million asset belonging to and operated by the city, but whose control, and pricing policies, are dictated by private interests in the central business district.
The councilman added that, due to discounted parking passes sold to merchants and then issued to their patrons, the parking utility has been taking in about $10,000 less per month than anticipated at the beginning of this year. For this type of utility not to operate at a profit, he noted, is against accepted accounting practices.
Councilman Patrick Hurley replied, however, that he supported anything the city could do to make it easier to do business in Summit.
Hurley said while it was easier for larger businesses to absorb losses a few bad days could lead a small business to close its doors. While the Second Ward representative agreed with Getzendanner that there was much the city needed to do to improve its parking system, he said small businesses, like the one his father once owned, should receive support from the city.
Council finance chairman Dave Bomgaars said the one-day loss in revenues by allowing free Saturday parking was “minimal,” and Councilman Robert Rubino said while the council could not do alot to help business it should do what it could to “get government out of the way of business.”
Councilman Gregory Drummond added that the city should also publicize the fact that 1,280 spaces in the city allow free parking every Saturday.
During public comments on the proposal, jeweler Richard Lorenson reminded the governing body members that the Saturday after Thanksgiving was Small Business Saturday. He added having the extra day of free parking enable downtown merchants to pick up revenue lost when potential customers shopped in nearby malls the previous two days.
Merchant Susan Stewart added that American Express offered a monetary incentive to shoppers on that Saturday. She noted this would allow downtown merchants to kick off the holiday season and perhaps attract more customers around Christmas and the later holidays.
SDI executive director Marin Mixon noted her office had received a number of emails and telephone calls supporting the extra free parking day.
The council voted 6-1 to approve the extra free parking day, with Getzendanner opposing the measure.
On another matter, First Ward Republican council candidate Mike McTernan said the city shouldn't “prejudice the outcome” of the impending sale of the Merck property in the city by necessarily tying itself to a zoning change and dividing up the property into smaller parcels.
He said if possible the site should be sold to a company the same size as its current occupants to keep the valuable commodity intact on the tax rolls, but, the city should leave itself open to zoning changes if companies interested in the site needed those changes to execute a sale.
In the meantime, the candidate said, the council should continue to keep city costs under control to meet any revenue-loss challenges due to the loss of the Merck ratable.
Second Ward Republican council candidate Sandra Lizza, noting that the governing body would hold its 2014 goal-setting meeting on Tuesday, October 29, said all council committees and city commissions also should set goals and issue periodic reports so Summit's residents could be updated on the work of all the governmental bodies.
On another matter, Second Ward Democratic council candidate Michael Vernotico said the city should do more on the upkeep of Tatlock Field, especially regarding replacement of the field lights.
He added the city has a naming rights committee that should explore selling rights to parts of the facility to bring private investment into its maintenance. In lieu of selling rights to the entire facility, he said, perhaps the city could explore sponsorship for portions of the fence around the field.
Dill replied that the department of community programs was aware that Tatlock Field would come to the end of its useful life in about 10 to 12 months. He also said the council would be asked within the next year or so to approve a number of expenditures for bleachers, new gates and fencing.
Further improvement of the community center also would be among funding requests to come before council, he said.
In another official action, the council approved reappointment of city solicitor Thomas Scrivo until December 31, 2014 and adopted an ordinance imposing a five-year restriction on road-opening permits on newly-paved streets.
Getzendanner voted against the ordinance because he objected to an exemption for openings to allow for installation of permanent gas generators in residences. He said the generators were not necessary for health and welfare and would create a nuisance to those living in neighboring homes.
The council also introduced a $500,000 bond ordinance for repaving of the Summit Family Aquatic Center parking lot.
The public hearing and possible final adoption of that ordinance are scheduled for Wednesday, November 6.
The governing body delayed, due to the need for technical modifications, the introduction of four ordinance calling for vacation of portions of various city streets. The council is expected to introduce the ordinances at its November 6 meeting.