MILLBURN, NJ – Tuesday night’s Millburn Township Committee meeting drew a variety of residents to make a case for preserving valet parking at the Short Hills train station.

The committee adopted an ordinance to increase the commuter parking permit by $50, to $560. Rates on hourly meters will also increase. The ordinance designates four kinds of on-street meter zones and locations, along with other parking zones.

“We’re proposing to issue remote business permits as an incentive to stop meter feeding, but we will not increase the regular business permit,” Committeeman Ted Bourke said. The idea, he said, is to encourage retail owners to keep affordable parking on the streets.

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“We’ve looked at this economically and from a ratio of traffic and commuting. This is the overall framework. We’ve heard those messages and we want to hear feedback.”  He outlined several considerations: 1) Extend valet parking for three months in 2015 until the parking deck is completely operational.  2) Allow residents more time to adjust to the changes. 3) Continue dialogue with the community.

Several residents brought up the crush for parking to catch the 7:33 a.m. train into the city. One resident presented a petition with 235 signatures to preserve valet parking. “We should not eliminate a valuable service,’ he said. “It would cause delays and affect the quality of life.”  He said that ending valet parking would result in increased traffic and speeding, especially in school zones.

Another resident referred to security provided by valet parking, which prevents carjacking and other issues.  She mentioned safety concerns for women, especially late at night.

One person said that valet parking keeps the stress out of the morning commute. “It’s one of the most useful services in town. It’s why people move here,” he said.

The manager of valet parking said that the parking deck is sometimes unsafe. “When people are rushing, they don’t care how they park,” he said, sometimes taking up two spaces.

Bourke explained that Millburn has an independent parking utility. “Revenues have to offset all the parking operations, meters, potholes, lighting, permits and more.” To pay off the $7.5 million debt for building the parking deck, the system, “must run on its own,” he said.

Mayor Robert Tilotson pointed out that permit rates have not been raised in five years. He also said that Millburn/Short Hills, with two train stations, is the only one in the area not under the control of NJ Transit. To park in a commuter lot in Millburn or Short Hills, you must be a resident. Communities such as Summit, he said, are open to anyone. But parking permits there are $860 and South Orange as a two-three year waiting list.

Bourke said there would be more discussion and dialogue at upcoming meetings.

In another matter, the committee adopted an ordinance to designate historical and specimen trees, many over 100 years old. Township Forester Thomas Doty shared a spread sheet of ages, location and types of trees. He also emphasized the environmental value, reducing the carbon footprint, absorbing water runoff, enhancing esthetic appeal and providing shade in summer.

Attorney Bendit Weinstock, representing the owner of property at 29 Ocean St., objected to the ordinance. She said the report was arbitrary and no testimony was heard until the second hearing. “This is a made-up definition of historic trees and interferes with the property rights of owners. Other property owners are not here,” she said.

An inventory report and listing of designated trees is available at Town Hall. The next Township Committee meeting is scheduled for 8 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 16, in Town Hall.