SUMMIT, NJ - The Summit Common Council, at its first meeting in December, voted to accept the final report of Level G Associates, which evaluated operation of the City’s parking agency, its finances and suggestions for meeting the Hilltop City’s future parking needs.
Chief among the report’s recommendations, as explained by Gerard Giosa, president of Level G, was that the City consider construction of a new parking deck over the current Lot 3 on Summit and DeForest Avenues.
However, as several of the governing body members pointed out, acceptance of the Level G report by no means clears the way for definite implementation of any of its recommendations, with Council members estimating that proposed action will be under intense study for at least the next year.
Giosa did say at the meeting, however, that his firm’s final report differed from the preliminary study presented in October, in that it agreed more fully with many previous recommendations by Burgis Associates, the City’s planning contractors, in identifying the Lot 3 area as “proximate to high parking space deficiency areas” identified in the Burgis report.
The Level G president added that Lot 3:
- Offers excellent balance in terms of distribution of high concentration parking supply and coverage of the central business district.
- Presents a “north of the tracks” location, proximate to the central business district, yet allows DeForest Lots 1 and 2 to remain open during construction.
- Is less likely to be impacted by potential decreases in future parking demand around the train station resulting from evolving transportation trends.
- Can become part of a redevelopment package to include adjacent and/or nearby properties.
In a reference to the last point, Giosa said the possible five-level height of a parking garage would be about equal to that of an office building directly across the street from the proposed structure, meaning the office building could act as a buffer between the parking deck and the surrounding area.
At this height, according to the Level G report, the “sloping floor deck” would contain about 427 spaces yielding a net parking gain of about 350 spaces.
The “developmental cost estimate” of the proposed parking structure, assuming short-term funding, would be $11,000,000.
Other proposed “short-term” funded solutions to meet the City’s parking needs include:
- A 100-car “at-grade” parking expansion, re-striping and miscellaneous improvements;
- Meter re-programming;
- Signage improvements and pay station re-programming;
- Seven new pay stations; more signage work and removal of existing equipment; and
- Revamping the permit system and increasing fines.
Solutions with assumed “mid-term” funding include:
- On-street pay-by-space, with 21 pay stations north of the railroad and associated costs; and
- On-street pay-by-space, with 19 pay stations south of the railroad and associated costs.
Second Ward Councilwoman Sandra Lizza pressed Giosa to address in greater detail a suggestion she previously brought up -- finding a mechanism whereby the owners and developers of properties that did not provide adequate parking would pay for parking elsewhere.
Giosa said having owners pay for parking away from their sites would not be practical if the City did not have sufficient parking space capacity to provide areas where owners -- not able to provide on-site parking -- could fund remote parking solutions.
First Ward Councilman David Naidu agreed with Lizza’s point to an extent, saying it compared with past solutions for those seeking to develop in the state’s wetlands areas -- they either had to find a way to develop around the wetlands, or pay for wetlands in other areas to make up for the wetlands their developments were taking away.
He said the Level G report was a “planning tool” that would enable the Council to move forward in finding solutions.
Second Ward Councilman Patrick Hurley added that the report helped provide the Council with all the information it needed to find solutions, whether it decides to go forward with plans for building a new parking deck in the next year or not.
Lizza added that the report was a useful document in concert with work done by City Administrator Michael Rogers and parking services manager Rita McNany.
The Lot 3 location was the best location for any new deck, First Ward Councilman Robert Rubino said, because it was separated far enough from residences, and he said it was one he long advocated.
Rubino also said the 400-space need probably was more realistic in the long run, considering projected central business district development, than previous estimates of around a 250-space deficit.
Council president Michael McTernan said he was glad the report provided a plan that would help the governing body to act rather than just giving it something “that would sit on a shelf.”
McTernan added a solution was needed and the Council should be looking for ideas, whether or not they included building a deck.
In another parking matter, the Council adopted an ordinance, among other actions, designating several previous 90-minute meters along Springfield Avenue for employee prepaid parking, increasing parking in some designated municipal lots and adding the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving as permanent free parking holidays.
The governing body also adopted an ordinance limiting parking to two hours, during the 7 to 10:30 a.m. time period, Monday through Friday on Bedford Road to deal with increased parking by students from Summit High School on the street near the high school.
Police Chief Robert Weck noted students at the high school who were not taking advantage of more than 60 spaces re-striped at Tatlock Field for their benefit may eventually be forced to do so because of increasing demands for parking restrictions on residential streets surrounding the school.
The Council also voted to apply for a grant to determine the feasibility of the City offering charging stations for electric vehicles at locations in two city parking facilities.
The Council also voted to amend the agreement with the New Jersey Department of Transportation on the proposed Summit Park Line that would remove language requiring Union County responsibility for maintenance at the site and increase the City’s responsibility for such maintenance.
In a ceremony at the beginning of the meeting, Mayor Nora Radest swore in newly-promoted Summit Police Sergeants Michael Byrne and Charles Daly, as well as new police officers Sean Thompson, Ruddy Garita, Leonard Franchino and Mark DeMetro.
The councilmen also heard a presentation by Tom Hurley of Special Data Logic on a new software system that would enable residents and contractors to keep track of the building permit process online and speed inspection approvals.