SOMERVILLE, NJ - Mayor Dennis Sullivan is asking New Jersey Motor Vehicle Chief Administrator B. Sue Fulton to shut down the local DMV facility on Saturdays because of disruptions and chronic parking problems that occur on private property adjacent to the facility, which extended to the Rite Aid drug store parking lot on Union Avenue last Saturday.
The lot in front of the store on Union Avenue, across the street from the DMV office, was full, according to Sullivan - before the store opened for business.
Somerville police were summoned, who used bullhorns to warn motorists that they would be ticketed and/or towed for parking illegally on private property.
Police are called to the DMV frequently by residents on Roosevelt Place and Schoolhouse Lane who live adjacent to the facility, complaining about traffic and people parking their cars on their property while going inside to conduct business at the DMV, according to Police Chief Dennis Manning.
Recently, the problem has grown worse as DMV offices throughout the state have been experiencing bigger crowds and longer lines as the deadline for Real ID licenses needed for domestic airline travel draws closer.
Sullivan has sent a letter to the commissioner reiterating the chronic problem, which she has witnessed first-hand at least twice since she took office.
Fulton was on site soon after she was first appointed to her position in April 2018 to visit with former Mayor Ellen Brain and other borough officials. She was invited by state Sen. Kip Bateman to have a look for herself, which she did one week after taking office.
Soon after that meeting, the DMV office in South Plainfield reopened; Fulton suggested that it would help to alleviate the crush in Somerville.
Fulton visited the local DMV again earlier this month to update Sullivan and other lawmakers and confirmed that the DMV has requested its Division of Property Management and Construction to fast track its search for an alternative location. The DMV lease with the property owner expires in one year. Sullivan is confident a new location will have been secured by that time.
The ongoing problems with the DMV location have also gotten the attention of Gov. Phil Murphy, who called Sullivan at home last week to assure the mayor that finding a new location for the DMV office is a top priority.
This is a copy of the letter written by Sullivan and sent to Fulton, with copies to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, state Sen. Kip Bateman, R-Somerset, Middlesex, Hunterdon, Mercer and 16th District Assemblymen Andrew Zwicker and Roy Freiman.
Dear Commissioner Fulton,
Since your visit to the Somerville DMV on 2-8-20, the situation has further deteriorated to the point where I am respectfully asking you to close the facility on Saturdays starting immediately. This past Saturday the parking problem extended onto private property in that your customers occupied the nearby Rite Aid parking lot, filling it completely before the pharmacy even opened for business.
Store management called the Somerville Police Department who responded and used bullhorns to warn drivers that they faced ticketing and towing for illegal parking.
The fact remains that the use of the Somerville facility is too intense for its current location. The inadequate parking onsite, which is in direct violation of your current lease, has forced the Borough to restrict traffic and parking on nearby residential streets, but the problem is now spreading further afield.
More restrictions are being considered to protect the quality of life in our community. Borough resources are being drained to ensure the health and safety of our residents, as well as your customers, and that is not acceptable.
I appreciate your efforts to find a new location for this office, but that process will take time. Meanwhile, conditions in the area will continue to degrade as spring brings new drivers and Real ID applicants flooding into Somerville.
Closing the Somerville DMV location on Saturdays will still allow you to serve the public while lessening the weekend impact on families in the area. Thank you for your attention to this matter, and I look forward to your prompt reply.
The Honorable Dennis Sullivan
Mayor, Borough of Somerville