Chatham Borough Seeking Parking Solutions in Business Zones Near Neighborhoods

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CHATHAM BOROUGH, NJ - Residents convinced the Borough Council to carry a land use ordinance to the Sept. 10 meeting that updates and clarifies permitted and conditional uses in the borough's business zones, and includes a section that pertains to business owners' parking requirement obligations.

Eight residents who live in residential areas near business districts on Main Street came out to specifically address the section that redefines the number of parking spaces that business owners must provide.

Resident Bill Tackaberry, a real estate agent and real estate owner, said the ordinance would result in more parking in residential neighborhoods. He requested that the council "scrap the ordinance until parking issues are resolved." Tackaberry noted that since the ordinance also changes lot coverage and floor area ratios, the borough could see larger buildings springing up that would have even fewer parking spaces requirements. He added that the ordinance was brought forth at the height of the summer vacation season and that the council would probably see more residents if it was discussed in the fall.

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Frustrated Coleman Avenue residents say that cars are already spilling into their neighborhood and that the 3-hour parking limit signs posted in the curbs are ignored.

Councilman Gerald Helfrich started the ball rolling on reexamining the parking caveat of the ordinance. Noting that while the professional planner followed the industry standard guidelines to make the recommendation, it didn't make sense to reduce on-site parking requirements. "We're already having problems. The cars are going to be on the streets. It's only going to aggravate the issue." Councilmen Leonard Resto, James Lonergan and James Collander agreed.

The council decided to continue the second reading of the ordinance at the September meeting instead of changing it after Borough Attorney James Lott cautioned the council that it would cost several thousand dollars to re-notice the couple of hundred affected residences. At the fall meeting, the council could decide to pass the ordinance with changes to the parking portion.

Before opening the floor to public comment about the ordinance, Mayor Bruce Harris had explained that the ordinance was brought to the forefront when Dunkin' Donuts and TriCare opened applications to establish businesses in the borough. Harris said that "inconsistent definitions were found with respect to business zones, permitted uses and conditional uses." He added that the purpose was to provide more clarity for the borough's planning board and to have a more solid defense in the face of possible lawsuits.   

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