SOMERVILLE, NJ – The borough continues to tweak its parking regulations four months after the new rate structure and time limits went into effect.
The Borough Council at its Monday night meeting approved an ordinance on first reading that will extend the time limits placed on Main Street parking meters from two to three hours, and eliminate time restrictions from off-street parking meters in municipal parking lots 1,2,4,6 and 7.
Rates will remain the same.
A public hearing at the next Borough Council meeting on Monday, Feb. 20 will precede a final vote on the proposed changes.
There will also be an opportunity to suggest other changes or to voice concerns at a special meeting of the Downtown Somerville Parking Task Force Monday, Feb. 13 from 6 to 7 p.m. in council chambers, 24 South Bridge St. at police headquarters.
Merchants, shoppers, tenants and building owners have pushed back on the new rates and restrictive time limits since they went into effect.
Mayor Brian Gallagher, who noted that parking rates had remained the same for 30 years before the new rates were imposed last October, said the borough will continue to weigh changes as part of the process, which includes the Feb. 13 meeting.
“We will continue to identify issues and talk about other adjustments that may or may not be made,” Gallagher said. We want to continue this dialogue.”
There are 1,100 parking meters and pay stations in the borough, according to Kevin Sluka, borough clerk.
The borough maintains seven parking lots; Parking lots 1 and 2, behind the Main Street shopping district stretching from Maple Street on the east to North Doughty Avenue on the west, includes 300 spaces, according to Sluka. Lot 7, located on E. High Street between North Bridge Street and Grove Street has 170 spaces.
Lots 3, 4 and 5 on the east side of the borough are much smaller. Lot 6 is primarily used for jurors who drive in from outside Somerville.
Gallagher said that in retrospect, the time limits placed on the meters reflected business as usual but it soon became apparent that the entertainment/restaurant nature of the downtown area had been overlooked in favor of the 9-5, traditional retail business.
Restaurant owners and patrons have complained about having to get up from the table in the middle of a meal to go outside and "feed the meter."
The proposed changes should solve that problem, according to the mayor.