Chatham Borough Council Discusses Crackdown on Those Who Park on Community Streets and Block Plows During Snowstorms

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Colleen Truppo is sworn in on Monday as a member of the Chatham Borough Shade Tree Commission as her sons hold the Bible.
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CHATHAM BOROUGH, NJ - Monday was one of the hottest days of the summer of 2011 but last winter’s colossal snowstorms were not far from the minds of the members of the Chatham Borough Council.

Council Member James J. Collander, whose responsibilities include public safety, noted cars parked on borough streets last winter made it difficult for Department of Public Works personnel doing the plowing to do their jobs safely and efficiently. In one instance, he noted, a BMW was covered with snow and parked in front of a residence. The plow operator was unable to see the car and ran into it.

Collander added the current borough ordinance bans parking on borough streets when the roads are snow covered, but it has no “teeth” in it. Police can issue traffic citations, but the municipal court judge sets the fine in each case, rather than having a schedule of fines outlined in the ordinance. In addition, there is no direct power to have a vehicle that is violating the ordinance towed.

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Police Lt. Brian K. Gibbons said although police will “use the path of least resistance” and would prefer to warn residents before plows attempt to clear a particular street it sometimes, as in the case of the BMW cited above, is difficult to determine the owner of a vehicle.

Police Chief Phillip Crosson added although current borough regulations allow police to warn residents to move their cars off streets after a state of emergency is declared there is no provision to do so when such an emergency is not declared.

Council members may introduce an ordinance calling for fines and towing of cars when snow levels reach at least six inches.

Department of Public Works Director Robert J. Venezia noted Monday that those who bring their cars onto streets to clear them and who throw snow into the street with snow blowers also cause his crews to come back into areas, thus causing overtime and extra money for taxpayers.

Collander said the borough is not trying to be “Draconian” with its regulations, but trying to make those who park their cars on borough streets during snowstorms aware that there will be consequences for their actions.

The police representatives will prepare a report on the fine schedules in adjacent municipalities and the council is expected to act on a more stringent ordinance at its August 8 session.

On another police matter, council members lent their support to institution of an e-ticket system to make issuing of motor vehicle citations more efficient.

Gibbons explained the system under consideration will enable a police officer to scan an accused violator’s license plate into the system and the system will “auto populate” information on the vehicle its owner from state motor vehicle records directly onto a ticket along with the projected court appearance date for the violator.

While manual tickets each take about 12 minutes to prepare, e-tickets each take two to three minutes, he added. The system also automatically updates fine schedules and will clearly indicate the officer who issued the violation.

He said the system is much more efficient and understandable than handwriting and it removes the possibility of officer error when entering the court appearance date.

More than 60 communities in New Jersey have e-ticket, he said, and the new system could be up and running within 30 days of council approval.

Due to the economies of scale, it was indicated that the vendor who administers the system prefers a long-term contract.

Council members, however, said they would like to explore all their options to determine whether the borough will sign up for a three-year or five-year contract.

On two financial matters, the council passed resolutions authorizing the sale of $5,819,000 in general improvement bonds for a number of borough projects and $916,000 in water utility bonds.

The Council also okayed the appointments of Colleen Truppo to the Shade Tree Commission, Katie D. Gilbert to the Public Arts Council and Trish Giassa and Gwen and Isabel Riddick to the Farmers’ Market Committee.

In addition, Denis F. Driscoll of the Parsippany law firm of Morrison Mahoney was named to represent the borough in litigation with the Tricare firm.

The Chatham Borough Board of Adjustment last year voted to overrule the borough’s zoning officer and require Tricare Treatment Center, LLC to seek a variance for a gambling addiction treatment facility at the Parrot Mill Inn.

The Zoning Board decided because the combination of a treatment center for those addicted to gambling with a long-term boarding facility for clients of the center represents a substantial change in the use of the Parrot Mill Inn at 47 Main Street, Tricare must seek a variance before opening a center at the bed and breakfast site.

Zoning Officer Vincent DeNave had ruled that, because Tricare sought to convert the second floor of the current inn into lodging facilities for its clients, it would be continuing the pre-existing, non-conforming use of the property. He also had decided that the conversion of five or six rooms on the first floor of the facility into offices for Tricare's professional counseling staff was legal in the B-3 zone in which the Parrot Mill Inn was located and that use would, in fact, decrease the non-conformity of the property.

Tricare's attempt to have its facility approved by the borough Planning Board without site plan review, based on DeNave's decision, led to an appeal of that decision to the Zoning Board by Robert Latorre of Talmadge Avenue. That led to the overruling of DeNave.

Following the Zoning Board decision, Tricare owner, Michael Osborne, sued the Borough Council, Mayor Nelson Vaughan and the borough’s planning and zoning boards, claiming state law was violated in denying him permission to use the Parrot Mill Inn.

Osborne is seeking to restore the original Planning Board decision granting Tricare a site plan review waiver to open the treatment center.

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