WEST ORANGE, NJ – After hearing an appeal from attorney Stephen Sinisi, who represented Alaris Health of West Orange at Tuesday’s council meeting, to defer action on an ordinance that would restrict parking on both sides of Brook End Drive, the West Orange Township Council (WOTC) voted unanimously to hold off the final vote until its next meeting.
Since the decision affects both the health center and the homeowners on Brook End Drive, Sinisi promised to deliver a plan “that is a less-intrusive means to the same end.” He introduced traffic and parking engineer Matthew Seckler of Stonefield Engineering and Design, who said he would deliver the plan to the WOTC members prior to the March 27 meeting.
During public comment, Brook End Drive resident Deanna Johnson urged the council not to delay the vote to end parking on the street.
“The parking is intrusive,” said Johnson, who also provides psychiatry services from her home. “There are cars sticking into my driveway…The residents of this block have the right to live in a place that is peaceful.”
She said that the crowding on the street was a factor in having one of her patients side-swiped while entering her practice. Johnson said her patient is still dealing with this injury.
“The township has taken incremental measures to rectify this issue, and they haven’t worked,” said Johnson. “Four out of the five homeowners don’t want any parking on the street.”
In providing background as to why this ordinance was put forward, West Orange municipal engineer Lenny Lepore said that after meeting with Business Administrator John Sayers, Police Chief James Abbott, Alaris representatives and a majority of the residents who wanted a total prohibition of parking, he decided the parking restriction on this street made sense.
“There is nothing more intrusive than residents not being able to park on their own street, and yet they voted 4-1 for a total parking prohibition,” said Lepore, who added that this convinced him that this was a wise decision.
Councilwoman Michelle Casalino said that the residents might want to rethink this decision because it could harm the resale value of their properties. She said that when houses are sold, people want to have parking rights on their street. She said that without this right, home values on Brook End Drive could decrease.
Council President Susan McCartney said that she reviewed the situation by visiting the street, and found that there was adequate parking in the Alaris Health lot—making street parking unnecessary. She said it must be noted that the 1996 zoning board ordinance already restricted visitors and vendors from parking on the street, but that enforcement has been challenging.
Kristine Giles, administrator at Alaris Health, took issue with this assessment. She said that the staff is asked to park in the lot, but the facility also gets many visitors, vendors delivering items and students who train at the facility. According to Giles, this is what causes the parking overflow. Alaris offers short-term post-hospital rehabilitation and long-term specialty care.
Councilman Joe Krakoviak confirmed Giles’ assessment that overflow parking is often an issue on the street. He said that he has visited the area a few times and has found that there isn’t always parking available in the Alaris lot, which is hemmed in by surrounding athletic and park fields.
Sayers said he has received numerous calls about people blocking driveways on this street. He said this is one of the reasons the street residents do not want residential permit parking rights.
“Alaris is a good commercial neighbor in West Orange,” said Krakoviak. “We should try to come up with a compromise.”