SUMMIT, NJ—They say “half a loaf is better than none.” Well, the Summit Common Council, at its second meeting in October, gave residents and business owners along the easterly side of Summit Avenue, between Parmley Place and Whittredge Road, about 38 percent of what they would have liked.
Comments at the meeting indicated no one was completely happy with the outcome, but most thought it was a step in the right direction.
The governing body adopted an ordinance rolling back eight meters designated since earlier this year as employee-only parking, returning them to their previous five-hour parking use. The measure still leaves 13 meters in the area for employee-only parking.
In introducing the ordinance for final passage, Council general services chairman Patrick Hurley said that, when the meters initially were designated for employees only, the council thought this would not have a significant impact on the area, but the council found they it was wrong.
Hurley added that the recent Level G parking study said that the current municipal Lot 3 on DeForest and Summit Avenues would be the most advantageous location for a new City parking garage. He noted the City is faced with a changing business mix -- that brings changing needs -- and is looking for flexible plans to meet current needs while considering what will be the long-term solution.
He also noted that the area behind the Summit Post Office was ruled out due to its proximity to the railroad tracks and areas further down on Broad Street were thought to be too far away for people to walk to the central business district.
At the past two Council meetings a number of residents of an apartment building in the Summit Avenue area and owners of area businesses have complained the employee-only designation of the Parmley-Whittredge area has taken away badly-needed spaces in an area already suffering from a scarcity of off-street parking.
At the second October meeting, Bruce Grimaldi, who owns a medical practice at 151 Summit Avenue, read a statement from John Bartlett, who owns a business at 155 Summit Avenue. In his statement, Bartlett said the meters on both sides of Summit Avenue were vital to area businesses, and redesignating “just five meters” would not help the situation. He asked that all meters on both sides of Summit Avenue in the area be returned to their previous five-hour use.
Cynthia Marrapodi, the owner of Creative Speech Solutions at 155 Summit Avenue, noted that she provides therapy to a number of children with handicaps and meter restrictions on the avenue cause parents of her patients to walk down the busy street and cross it, which could present a danger to these families. She also said more meters should be restored to their previous designations.
Ward 1 Councilman Robert Rubino, although in favor of the adopted ordinance, said it did not go far enough and all of the previously-designated five-hour metered spots should be restored.
Rubino said all the recent parking studies point to the long-term need for a new parking structure in the central business district which, he felt, over time could be paid for by user fees. Although the Ward 1 representative said “nibbling around the edges” of the parking deficit was a good solution for the time being, there still was a need for 250 to 400 additional spaces, especially with new restaurants and increased evening activities taking up even more parking spaces in the central business district.
He suggested that the Council revisit the ordinance in the future to restore the five-hour designation to the remaining meters in the Parmley-Whittredge area.
Although Hurley noted that data recently presented showed the need for 14 to 20 spots for daily parking by employees of businesses in the central business district, he agreed with Rubino that the ordinance rolling back the designation on eight meters might be obsolete soon after it was adopted.
He agreed with Rubino that an ordinance should soon be adopted restoring the five-hour designation to all 21 spots.
However, Ward 2 councilwoman Mary Ogden said the original ordinance was intended to relieve the stress on parking in the central business district caused by those employed there. Ogden said she felt frustrated by the process and the governing body was “damned if we do and damned if we don’t.”
She praised the use of discounted Uber rides to the Summit train station and other creative solutions to the problem, but said she still saw the need for more parking for those employed in the central business district.
Although agreeing with Rubino and Hurley about the eventual need to re-convert all 21 meters, Ward 1 councilman David Naidu said that, although he saw the need for employee parking, he was surprised that more of the owners of businesses in the central business district did not speak on the ordinance for the eight meters and support of their employees.
Naidu added that only opponents of the original ordinance spoke on the measure removing the restrictions.
The Ward 1 representative also said that he did not favor a new garage at DeForest and Summit Avenues due to the traffic congestion it would cause during the evening rush hour and the fact that the area was a walking route for many students attending the nearby Lincoln-Hubbard School.
Naidu also said that once the Broad Street corridor was redeveloped more people would be willing to park there to get to downtown businesses.
However, Rubino replied that he didn’t know why the City would spend money on a parking study and not listen to the consultants who made that study.
He added that business owners and residents wanted parking near the central business district and the recommendation for redevelopment of the Broad Street Corridor was “an ambitious, general plan that I believe may not come to fruition.”
Rubino also said the council needed to look for a solution in the downtown area “now, not 10 years in the future.”
Councilman-at-Large Richard Sun said a new tiered parking facility was not a long-term solution for the community and a better one should be found.
Ward 2 councilman Steven Bowman, noting the complaints of lack of accessibility for the handicapped in the Parmley-Whittredge area, said he was surprised no one had advocated for more handicapped-accessible parking. Bowman said he had not yet seen realistic financial data on future parking alternatives and was not willing to discuss it until that data became available.
On development of the Broad Street Corridor, Mayor Nora Radest said that, when the latest Level G parking study was prepared the redevelopment of the corridor was not on the table, and, therefore, it could not be considered.
However, Hurley contended the Broad Street Corridor area had been under discussion for about four years.
Council president Michael McTernan said the Council, sometimes unjustly, had been accused of not being transparent, but everyone in the City had been notified of the discussions on the Summit Avenue meters.
Apparently referring to Naidu’s comments on lack of turnout by those potentially opposed to the ordinance revision, McTernan said “people are busy. When it comes to something that matters to them, the public becomes engaged.”
He also said if the “situation is not fixed, if we don’t fix it we will have no employee parking. SPAC (the Summit Parking Advisory Committee) often talks more about employee parking than shopper parking.”
The Council president also said it was unfair to attack members of Summit Downtown, Inc. for not attending the meetings dealing with revising the Summit Avenue meters, saying the ordinance was “a compromise” and they may not have been interested in the proposed compromise.
He added it was unfair to say the Level G study could not have considered the Broad Street Corridor because it was not specifically on the table at the time of the study when the post office lot as a site for another parking facility had been considered previously.
“I also don’t want us to be the only city in America building a parking structure that is outdated before it is used,” McTernan said, noting that he favored the Uber plan, valet parking for residents during the holidays, and possibly adding lifts to one of the current lots.
He added the Council needed to “get through” all the recommendations in the Level G study and have a full review of the study by SPAC with a report to the Council.
Hurley replied that, perhaps, SPAC had not been fully represented, being more heavily weighted with SDI members. He added, however, that perhaps businessmen and residents located outside the central business district had not come forward when SPAC members were sought.
On a related matter, in response to a comment from Grimaldi, McTernan said the City had dealt with the perceived problem of those no longer employed in the central business district using spaces reserved for employees by:
- Placing the entire parking permit system online.
- Using license plate recognition to enforce meter regulations.
- Having those seeking permits re-apply every year.
On another matter, the Council awarded a contract, with a maximum expenditure of $35,000, to DCP Paving for work at Wilson Park and near the Cornog Fieldhouse.
A Wilson Park area resident said that paving of a section of the park might not be effective without securing the area because City trucks, emergency vehicles, a hot dog vendor and baseball coaches were tearing up grass and dirt areas of the park with their vehicles.
Council members debated solutions, but McTernan suggested that the City post signs on the area in question stating the are was to be used only for access by City vehicles working on the park and first responders in emergencies and police patrolling the park.
The Council also approved a three-year contract between the City and Local 469 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which, among other items, will provide for an average salary increase of 2.1 percent.