Common Council Extends Parking Restrictions in Area of Summit High School

New Summit Police Officer Jeffrey Deets is sworn in Mayor Ellen Dickson as his brother holds the Bible. Credits: Bob Faszczewski
Outgoing Summit Police Auxiliary Commander Rick Proctor thanks auxilary members after receiving an award for his service during Tuesday's common council meeting. Credits: Bob Faszczewski

SUMMIT, NJ - Faced with a number of resident complaints of blocked driveways and the inability of emergency and other service vehicles to get down streets clogged with cars parked on both sides, the Summit Common Council on Tuesday adopted an ordinance restricting parking to two hours -- from 7 to 10:30 a.m. --  during school days on an additional five streets in the area of Summit High School.

The council, in the last few years, has increased parking restrictions on streets within the immediate vicinity of the high school and has expanded to other streets as they have become overflow destinations for student drivers restricted from using the original streets.

Restrictions adopted Tuesday will apply to the following streets:

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  • Beekman Road between High Street and Fairview Avenue
  • Webster Avenue between Montrose and Madison avenues
  • Lowell Avenue between More and Madison avenues
  • Madison Avenue between Lafayette and Lincoln avenues
  • Montrose Avenue between Lafayette and Webster avenues

Council public safety committee chairman Patrick Hurley said part of the problem seems to stem from the fact that there are many more student-driven cars and that, due to state regulations restricting the number of children under 18 years old allowed in a car with a driver that age, there seems to be less carpooling among students than in the past.

He also noted that students are obtaining licenses earlier in their high school careers, thus also adding more student drivers into the mix.

Hurley said school officials are looking for more solutions to the increase in student cars.

According to Police Chief Robert Weck, possible solutions include having students use a lot in a car dealership near the high school, allowing two different families to use the same parking space at the high school to encourage family car-pooling or using parking near Tatlock Field for student parking. 

One of the problems with Tatlock, Hurley noted, however, was that students parking there would have to cross busy streets during rush hours to get to and from school.

Councilman Mike McTernan said, although he was impressed with the systematic approach that the safety committee is taking to the problem, he can understand that students with licenses want to drive while at the same time sympathizing with residents frustrated with too many cars parked on their streets during the school day.

During public comments on the issue, a resident of Beekman Road said as many as seven cars were lined up on a recent morning on the north side of the streets, making it difficult for visitors to residences on the street and those going to the nearby primary centers.

In addition, he said, residents living on the south side of the street found it difficult to get out of their driveways because of cars parked on the north side of the street.

For Dave Barr of 29 Montross Avenue, who said up to 21 cars park on his street, the ordinance passed on Tuesday does not go far enough.  He said students would leave school during study halls at 10:30 am to move their cars and thus avoid penalities for disobeying the new restrictions.  He urged the council to move the restriction to 3 pm.

However, Councilman-at-Large Gregory Drummond, who presided at Tuesday’s session in the absence of council president Robert Rubino, said moving the restriction to 3 p.m. would create a major change in the ordinance, thus delaying its adoption.  He urged his fellow council members to adopt the ordinance as introduced, see how the restrictions work out, and amend the measure later in the year if a change is needed.

Weck added that students were not supposed to be leaving the high school campus during the school day and school principal Paul Sears had told him this rule would be more strictly enforced.

Councilman Albert Dill, Jr. added that the 10:30 time would allow residents to park their cars in front of their homes and move them from time to time.  He also said leaving the spaces open during the rest of the day would be more convenient for visitors to the residences on the various streets.

On another parking measure, the council approved a resolution allowing free parking in the central business district on the Saturday following Thanksgiving this year.  Parking already is free on the holiday and the day after the holiday.

Dill, however, said the general services committee, at the recommendation of parking services manager Rita McNany, decided not to endorse the Saturday parking holiday because it was felt that employees who work in the central business district would take all the free spots, thus defeating the purpose of encouraging turnover of the spaces and not allowing for shoppers to use the spaces.

Hurley replied, however, that parking was about facilitating business in the downtown area.  He added he was encouraged that the council, of late, was more concerned about finding solutions to parking challenges rather than focusing strictly on revenue.

He felt the city should offer as much free parking on holidays as possible.

Tony Melchione, the chairman of the Summit Downtown, Inc. board of trustees, who, said he  was one of the biggest “naggers” about employees taking up shopper parking, noted that employees could park at street meters for free on Saturdays anyway, so the Thanksgiving Saturday parking holiday probably would not cause them to take up more shopper parking.

He added that Summit should do what it can to do away with the stigma that the city does not provide enough shopper parking.

To cause a greater flow, he added, perhaps the city’s parking lot opening hours could be staggered.

McTernan said. while free parking was a subsidy from the taxpayers to the merchants. it also was a convenience to residents.  He also said the $5,000 per day in lost revenue due to free parking estimated by McNany was worth the cost to encourage business.

Second Ward Councilwoman Sandra Lizza, however, agreed with Dill that, while free parking would bring more people into the central business district those who came most likely would stay all day and defeat turnover.

Second Ward Councilman Richard Madden favored free all-day parking, but said he would like to get an evaluation of the Saturday-after-Thanksgiving plan from merchants after it is done this year to see if it should be reinstituted next year.

He also said merchants could encourage customers, rather than shopping in the central business district only on the days when parking holidays were offered, to come back on other days.

Hurley added that, because many Summit merchants operate on such a thin profit merchant, the council would quickly hear from them whether the Saturday plan is a success or failure.

Dill, although skeptical that the results of the Saturday plan would be any different from free parking holidays tried in the past, seconded the motion for a 2014 Saturday-after-Thanksgiving plan and said his committee would again study the results to see what could be done in the future.

In another action, the governing body gave its blessing to student volunteers from the high school and the Summit Conservancy in their efforts to create a permanent building at the city’s transfer station to house the Summit Freemarket, through which residents can drop off unwanted household items for other residents to take home for free.

The free market now operates several times a year at the transfer station but is restricted by inclement weather.

Councilmen also approved bond ordinances for road improvements to Druid Hill Road, Fairview Avenue, Fernwood Road and Ridge Road, and a bond ordinance allocating $4,170,000 for a number of improvements to city facilities, including startup funding for renovations to the community centers, and purchases of equipment for a number of city agencies.

Also approved was a revised fee schedule for sewer usage increasing fees by about 3 percent.  Residential fees will go from $200 to $206 per unit and fees for industrial users and New Providence, which purchases capacity in Summit’s sewer system, will increase by like amounts for the year.

The governing body also authorized $103,691.14 for the purchase of console furniture for the joint dispatch center to be opened with New Providence and Millburn. 

Hurley said the furniture would be paid for by a federal department of justice community policing grant.

He added the dispatch center, under construction in New Providence, would be open later than the originally projected September 1 start date.

Council also authorized application for a Union County Kids Recreation Trust Fund Grant which the city is expected to use to improve tennis courts at Tatlock and make improvements at Wilson Park.

The council also voted to give Summit’s authorization to a $300,000 New Jersey Department of Environmental Profection grant for de-snagging and de-silting at 15.6-mile stretch of the Passaic River. A number of other communities through which the river flows also have signed on for the grant.

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