SUMMIT, NJ - Parking – in multiple iterations – dominated the October 15 Summit Common Council agenda, with Ward 1 Council Member Stephanie Gould moving an ordinance to establish two electric vehicle charging stations in the Deforest Avenue parking lot, and setting regulations and a fee schedule in the process, and Ward 2 Council Member Greg Vartan bringing forward a resolution designating two weeks of free holiday parking at select downtown locations in the month of December. 

Relative to the proposed electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, parking services manager Rita McNany explained all fees – for parking and for electricity used – will be charged through the ChargePoint charging station. This allows for 24/7 use by the public. “We wanted people to be able to use it, coming off the highway, coming in to Summit at any point in time, any day, to be able to charge.” Parking fees will be the same as for other spaces in the lot, but with additional fees for electricity. McNany said the ordinance was based on those in place in similar communities.

There will be a four-hour maximum for charging. Once charging is completed, drivers will get a text message and will have about 15 minutes to get to their car. If they ignore the text and leave their car, parking fees will continue to apply up to the already enforced $50 maximum. Drivers can use an app on their phone or call ChargePoint’s 800-number. ChargePoint takes 10% of both parking and charging revenues.

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Ward 2 Council Member Stephen Bowman observed that residents of neighboring apartment buildings may choose to use the ports, especially after hours. McNany replied that parking fees would help to ensure turnover for the spaces. The lot can be monitored on a daily basis by Parking Services, making it easier to know if the program needs to be tweaked.

Ward 1 Council Member Mike McTernan noted that drivers charging their cars after hours or on Sundays would be paying a parking fee even though the lots are free at those times. City Solicitor Matthew Giacobbe confirmed that the fees would apply 24/7, including the five-hour maximum fee.

McNany said that proper signage would make that clear.

David Naidu, Council president, asked if the source of the electricity was carbon-based, and if the station could be powered by a solar panel. McNany said she’d look into it, but expressed doubts.

Vartan noted the ChargePoint app was “universally recognized” among people who drive EVs. He speculated it could serve to “drive people to Summit, pun intended,” to charge their car and perhaps also have lunch or shop in town.

McTernan said, “generally speaking, in our zip code, people who drive these electric vehicles don’t need any subsidy from the city of Summit.” He was happy that this arrangement includes revenue above the parking fees and may even generate extra parking hours of parking revenue.

The ordinance was approved in a unanimous roll call vote.

Bowman introduced a pair of Law & Labor ordinances. The first would decrease the mandated distance licensed premises selling alcohol from 1,500 feet to 300 feet. Many stores are already closer than 1,500 feet; the ordinance would make the rules consistent with actual practice. The second would change the City’s motor vehicle towing and storage fees to bring them in line with NJ State Police processes. Both ordinances will be heard and voted on at the November 6 council meeting.

Resolutions

There was a long menu of resolutions on the agenda.

Council member-at-large Beth Little had two Finance resolutions. The first approved the state-required CY 2019 / SFY 2020 Best Practices Inventory Program. New Jersey requires municipalities to go through a certification of fiscal and operational best practices annually to qualify for the distribution of state CMPTRA and ETR aid. Inventory answers provide taxpayers with an additional means of evaluating their municipality’s performance, including how tax dollars are utilized. Each municipality must receive a minimum score of 30 (out of 53) on the inventory in order to receive its full final aid payment. Summit responded positively to 50 out of the 53. Little commended city CFO Tammy Baldwin and her staff.

Her second resolution increased the 2019 salary for a Department of Community Services employee who has been promoted to replace a retiring employee.

Vartan introduced a Safety & Health resolution authorizing the purchase of portable radios for the Summit Police Department for $279,068. This completes the transition to a “modern and more resilient digital system” that allows responders across all departments to communicate. Police Chief Robert Weck said there are currently no plans for the old radios.

Three Community Programs & Parking Services resolutions were moved by Gould. The first authorized the purchase and installation of the electrical vehicle charging stations through the Educational Services Commission of NJ Cooperative Pricing System for $17,360.50. They will be hard-wired into two spaces in the Deforest lot. Council previously accepted a $6,000 grant from the state to be put towards this purchase. The next approved a one-year contract extension with Parking Services Plus, Inc., for the successful Broad Street East valet parking concession, in the amount of $135,000. Little asked, apropos of the Broad Street East redevelopment project, if the City can still exit the contract with a 30-day notice and was assured by McNany that it could. McNany also confirmed the terms and rates remain the same.

Also moved was the approval of a one-year contract extension with Lyft Inc. for the Dynamic Ridesharing Program, not to exceed $200,000 per contract year. The program currently has more than 340 participants. Naidu pointed out that costs paid by Parking Services were around $120,000 by August this year. He questioned if Council should be having a “more intensive discussion” about cost allocations, considering the benefits the Lyft users receive.

Little played devil’s advocate, countering that there are pros and cons for both program participants and drivers in their own cars. “Using the service frees up [parking] spots that we desperately need in the downtown” at a cost that is much less than providing a parking structure.

McNany stated that “with parking, if you want to change behavior, you use pricing. … If you want to park your car, it should cost you more.” She said a subsidy for the Lyft rides is less of a cost than adding hundreds of parking spaces.

As there were three related Community Programs & Parking Services items for discussion, action, or referral, Naidu moved them up to this present portion of the agenda. These matters had all been discussed at the previous meeting.

The first dealt with Summit Downtown Inc.’s request for free holiday parking in December. Vartan noted that this request is submitted virtually every year, and that past councils have opposed free parking for various reasons including the lack of quantitative data showing that free parking increases revenue, the lateness of the requests, and the loss of parking revenue. Last year, council approved free Saturday parking in December. This year, SDI made its request in June, and a compromise was reached. There will be free parking from December 14 to 29 at 90-minute meters, the ground level of the Tier Garage, and the Bank Street lot. The loss of revenue will be partially offset by a $3,000 contribution from SDI, which will also reimburse the city for the purchase of parking meter covers. SDI has also submitted a marketing plan to promote the free parking. Parking time limits will be enforced and McNany will provide a report afterwards as to the effectiveness of the program. Vartan requested a resolution be made from the floor to accept that plan and Fox obliged.

McTernan said he’d never been opposed to the free parking, but wanted to know that “businesses really cared about it,” enough to make at least a nominal contribution to offset the lost revenue.

Next, Vartan introduced three requests by New Darlington LLC – to waive an hour of noise ordinance enforcement during construction, a reduced bag fee for one of the meters at 123-127 Summit Avenue, and the removal of a parking meter on Summit Avenue. The noise ordinance waiver has been reviewed and approved by the City administrator. Vartan noted that as the strain on Summit’s parking increases, the City should no longer subsidize projects that do not benefit the public. His committee recommended the reduced $10 / day bag fee for the temporarily disabled parking meter and the full $20,000 fee for the removed meter. McNany said the developer will receive a monthly bill for the bagged meter based on the number of parking days in the month. At the end of the construction period, the bagged meter will return to regular operation. Mark Yeager, Prospect Hill Avenue, the developer, said he anticipates the project will be completed in 12-14 months. A resolution was moved and accepted.

Summit Parmley, at 133 Summit Avenue, also requested a $10 / day bagged meter rate. Laura Borth of Buckalew Frizzell & Crevina, attorney for Summit Parmley, related that her client’s dumpsters were affected by the New Darlington construction and therefore needed to be moved into the street. However, it became apparent there was uncertainty whether the spot under discussion was actually a parking space or an area used by traffic. Naidu suggested the issue be tabled until the various departments which need to weigh in have a chance to review the situation.

Returning to the resolutions agenda, there was a single Law & Labor resolution moved by Bowman authorizing extension of sick leave with pay for a tax assessor’s office employee.

Ward 2 Council Member Marjorie Fox had a long list of Capital Projects & Community Services resolutions. The first adopted a sidewalk installation and maintenance policy. It was developed by the engineering division, the capital projects and & community services committee, and the safety & health committee. Introduced at the March 5 council meeting, it incorporates comments submitted since that time, including input solicited from the Parent-Teacher Organizations since certain sidewalks are on walk-to-school routes. Property owners will no longer be assessed for sidewalk installation, though they are still responsible for maintenance. Little noted the plan prioritizes walking paths as a community benefit. When roads are paved, if a sidewalk is indicated in the plan, it will be installed then; residents will have an opportunity to comment at that time.

Next was a resolution authorizing the sale of 71 Summit Avenue, the old town hall, to Family Promise for $1.4 million, the assessed value of the building. The agreement states that the historic front facade must be retained, and if the building is used by a commercial enterprise, it will revert back to the City. Family Promise, a national nonprofit addressing the issue of family homelessness, has leased the building since 1997. Claas Ehlers, Family Promise’s CEO, spoke briefly about the organization. Founded in Summit in 1986, it went national in 1988 and currently operates in 43 states. McTernan noted the building represents Summit, but the organization “represents Summit in a different way ... that giving spirit.”

The third resolution authorized financial support of the bike shelter installation at the train station. Previously, Summit entered into an agreement with the New Jersey Bike Walk Coalition to install and maintain a bike shelter, expected to cost $60,000. Summit would contribute $10,000 from the DCS Open Spaces account. The Coalition has indicated several larger sponsors are willing to contribute if the City does, too. Naidu noted the process has taken three years, largely because of negotiations with NJ Transit. McTernan recalled the project was pitched at no cost to the City, but said he supports it nonetheless. Fox characterized this payment as showing Summit is serious about the project, but Radest said the City’s negotiations “and countless phone calls with New Jersey Transit” should indicate that.

Two of Fox’s resolutions concerned snow removal. One awarded a bid to S&L Contractors of Chatham -- the lower of two bidders -- for on-call snow and ice removal on parking lots and decks in 2020-21. The current contract expires at the end of this year. The new contract is the same as the current one, and is not to exceed $85,000 a year. The other resolution authorized re-advertising for bids for 2020-21 snow removal from walks and open spaces since no bids were received in September. Bids would be due on October 29.

There was a change order authorized for the Laurel Avenue and Larned Road improvement project. The $29,567.56 reduction – a 9% decrease – was due to using less asphalt and reusing some granite block curbing, while adding additional sidewalks. A second change order was made to the Community Center renovation project, for an additional $1,020 architect’s bill for unanticipated structural work on a wall.

A resolution authorized execution of a hold harmless agreement with Union County for use of its leaf composting facility. While Summit can process its own leaves, DPW wants to investigate potential cost savings by sending some leaves to the county facility. Entering into the agreement incurs no costs unless material is actually sent to be processed.

Finally, Ayman Maleh was appointed as alternate number three on the zoning board.

All resolutions passed.

During public comments, Christopher Harrison, Ashland Road, and Christine Lijoi, Canoe Brook Parkway, inquired about the lack of progress on the permanent Free Market building. Naidu, who also sits on the Summit Conservancy board, explained that that property is leased from Union County. Because some of it is Green Acres land, only a portion can be used for recycling activities. Building on that portion requires piles to be driven for support. Naidu explained that very few pile companies are willing to work on a small-scale project like the Free Market building.

Bill Anderson, who also sits on the Conservancy board, said the original contractor backed out of its commitment, necessitating going back to the marketplace to find another. He expects to have three proposals by the end of the week and to make a decision soon. He noted the economy is strong, keeping pile companies busy, but Summit has been stressing the positive public relations value of the Free Market project and “working every angle we can.”

Gary Whyte of Mountainside has been involved in fundraising for the rare connective tissue disease fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva; he started a foundation for the FOP research lab at the University of Pennsylvania in 2002. He has accumulated two thick binders of proclamations and resolutions raising FOP awareness from virtually every municipality in New Jersey, as well as many other locales. He said a South Jersey congressman wants to enter Whyte’s books of proclamations into the Library of Congress, and Whyte would like them to show 100% support. He came before Council to request that Summit write a letter to the two NJ towns which haven’t issued a proclamation, asking them to do so. Mayor Nora Radest, while “not inclined to pressure another mayor,” agreed to review his materials.

Tom Behrens of Burgis Associates, the City planner, presented an overview of proposed changes to the City’s Development Resolutions and Ordinances (DRO). The DRO governs the construction of buildings and structures and permitted uses in various zones. After the revised Master Plan was adopted in 2016, the Planning Board determined that the DRO, adopted in 2003, needed to be reviewed and amended. Subsequently, feedback was obtained through a number of stakeholder meetings and from the planning board and Council members, among others.

The goal, Behrens said, is to “streamline and modernize the existing ordinance.” The guiding principles include creating regulations that strengthen local assets, addressing emerging land use issues, refining and expanding upon existing design criteria, and promoting sustainable development.

The DRO chiefly deals with administration, zoning, stormwater management and drainage, ecologically sensitive areas, and historic preservation. It supports the Master Plan’s goals and objectives: to guide development to maintain and enhance the character of Summit; maintain a dynamic and vibrant city; improve connectivity between people and places; promote a city that is welcoming to all; build economic resiliency by supporting reinvestment; and preserve and enhance natural beauty, open spaces, and community facility assets for future generations.

Behrens gave examples of new approaches, such as expanding permitted uses in various downtown zones, permitting rooftop gardens and other amenities, removing barriers for implementing green technologies, changing standards for rooflines and garages in single-family homes, and offering potential bonus incentives for developers achieving LEED certification levels or other sustainability goals.

The next steps involve the Planning Board preparing a draft ordinance, which will then be referred to Council, which will introduce it at its November 6 meeting. The ordinance then goes to the Planning Board for a master plan consistency review on November 25. If it passes, council will vote on adopting the ordinance at its December 3 meeting. Behrens called the ordinance “a living document, intended to evolve over time.”

Claire Toth, Sunset Drive, spoke as a member of Summit Downtown Inc. and the Historic Preservation Commission. She said neither group had been invited to be involved in this process, and asked if there would be additional opportunities to provide input. She also asked where the DRO document would be publicly available for review and comment. Behrens replied the ordinance has a section specifically focused in historic preservation. Fox said the planning board had had public discussions about the DRO at its meetings. Planning board chair Bill Anderson, Cromwell Parkway, added that the proposal includes a mandated review before the demolishing any of the City’s 30-some historic buildings, something that is currently not required. He said additional attention will subsequently be given to other historic preservation aspects.

McTernan asked if the “bonus incentives” could lead to greater density downtown, worrying about overbuilding when people “love our downtown.” Behrens clarified that the incentives would not apply to single- or two-family homes, and that in the CRBD and other affected zones, there would likely be a review process with incentives being awarded at the discretion of the reviewing body.

Housekeeping

In her mayor’s report, Radest announced the Economic Development Advisory Committee will hold a community listening session on October 22 at the Summit Community Center. The topic is the area adjacent to Ashwood Avenue, Park Avenue, and Broad Street. The public is invited to share its ideas for growth and future enhancements.

The second workshop on the proposed single-use plastic restrictions will take place on October 17 at the SCC. The only other opportunity for public input will be when council votes on the ordinance at its November 18 meeting.

She again reminded residents that they’re needed to serve on the City’s various volunteer boards and commissions. Council and the mayor select appointees in November.

The Broad Street Garage will be closed for power washing on October 18 at 10 p.m. through October 20 at 7 p.m., and on October 25 at 10 p.m. through October 27 at 7 p.m.. Overnight permit holders may park in the Broad Street East lot adjacent to the garage.

Residents must renew their annual permits for parking and Transfer Station access by October 31. That can be accomplished online via the City website.

The next Free Market will be held on October 19 from 8 to 3 at the Transfer Station.

Naidu extended Diwali wishes to Summit’s South Asian community, celebrating this month.

In closing comments, McTernan noted that the first single-use plastics workshop had been lightly attended, and expressed concern that businesses have not been adequately notified about the workshops and the proposed restrictions. Naidu responded that SDI has been disseminating information, but McTernan replied that many businesses don’t receive or respond to information from SDI.

There was a lively discussion of the various ways information has been circulated, including through the City’s communications department and TAPinto Summit. Radest said that unlike the 'skip the straw' program, these restrictions won’t be voluntary, and will entail fines. Naidu maintained it’s incumbent on businesses and residents to stay aware of what the governing body is doing, and that ordinances should be treated equally in the way they’re communicated.

McTernan countered that this will change the way restaurants do business. He suggested a letter would have more impact than an email, prompting Vartan to suggest that a standard criterion for notifications might be established. He explained that there’s a built-in buffer between an ordinance’s introduction and adoption to allow for comments, but for some issues, such as the budget workshops, Council goes “above and beyond.” Fox said that would make it impossible to govern. Radest used the example of the Summit gift card, which needed the buy-in of all the City’s businesses, and said she’d talk to Amy Cairns, the City's chief communications officer, to discuss further avenues of outreach, especially to businesses outside of downtown.