MILLBURN, NJ - The Millburn Township Committee unanimously approved an $8.1 million parking deck Monday night, a structure that has been in the works for a decade and discussed intensely over the past year.

The deck, slated to begin construction in Spring 2012, would be placed in Lot 2 on the corner of Essex and Lackawanna near downtown shops and the New Jersey Transit station.  The multi-use structure will hold 393 spaces for short-term and permit holders, up from the current 323 spaces.

Committeeman James Suell, a member of the sub-committee that reviewed the project, said Lot 2 was chosen because of the benefit for commuters and shoppers, despite objections from shop owners that the construction would disrupt their business.

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“There is presently a commuter shortfall in the downtown which I think everybody realizes.  But we will be coming out of recession in the near future, and the downtown will benefit with the right protection to it,” Suell said.

Timothy Haahs and Associates, who conducted the Phase One study of the project, was awarded a contract of $290,139 to conduct the second phase of the planning.

The deck was originally slated to be built on Lot 7 on Glenn Avenue. Residents of Glenn Avenue argued the structure would negatively affect their area and successfully lobbied the committee to look at another location.  The deck on Lot 7 would have cost $8.44 million and required a soil-testing to screen for harmful contaminants.

Construction is expected to last eight to 10 months, with the deck expected to open in early 2013.  The project will be paid for through commuter permits and short-term parking fees. Commuter permits are expected to initially increase to a maximum of $585 per year, up from the current annual cost of $360.  Business parking permits will initially increase to a maximum of $355 annually, up from $230.

While admitting some disruption may occur, the committee reiterated that they would work with local businesses to lessen the impact on their shops. Shayne Miller, President of the Millburn-Short Hills Chamber of Commerce, said he appreciated the committee’s sentiment.

“The ideal location for us would have been Lot 7,” Miller said. “We’d like to work with the committee to make sure that the displaced parking doesn’t affect downtown business.  We’ll work with them however we can to make sure that business continues to thrive during construction.”