WEST ORANGE, NJ – Following the Matrix Development Group’s positive assessment of converting the open lot at 665 Eagle Rock Avenue into a public parking lot for shoppers and commuters, the administration asked the West Orange Township Council to approve the release of $400,000 in funds to purchase the property for this purpose. The council voted 4-1 to approve this funding, with only Councilman Joe Krakoviak voting no, at Tuesday’s mayor and council meeting.

Once the conversion of this space is completed, there will be 19-to-21 new parking spaces created in that lot.

Township attorney Richard Trenk requested the funding on behalf of the administration, stating that the $400,000 will enable the township to close on this property, which has been vacant for approximately five years.

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Krakoviak said he voted against this funding primarily because he is concerned about what he viewed as the township’s high debt levels. He added that additional parking is not a priority issue in this area, and that he was against borrowing more money to make this happen.

Councilwoman Michelle Casalino said she shared Krakoviak’s concerns about the debt, but felt this was money worth spending.

“It’s a business corridor for us, and we need to make it a vital corridor,” she said. “This parking lot will help businesses in the area. I know the business community and residents are excited about this move. It’s a great project for the Pleasantdale section.”

Councilman Jerry Guarino said extra parking in this increasingly busy business area is needed.

“Right now, people are using the parking lot behind Walter Bauman Jewelers as overflow parking for all the stores in the area,” said Guarino. “It is parking that should be just for the stores in this complex. We need more parking to accommodate all the stores.”

Agreeing with Guarino, Trenk said that this new parking lot will be more noticeable from the street and will encourage people to stop to do their shopping there.

Guarino, who in past meetings has encouraged the township to consider metered parking to generate revenue, once again called for more metered parking and enforcement of it. He said that neighboring South Orange generates more than $1 million a year from metered parking revenue, and that West Orange should do the same.

John Gross, chief financial officer, said that enforcement of metered parking “is ultimately about compliance, not about generating revenue.” He added that the idea is for revenue to drop off as people increase their compliance with parking regulations.

The next township council meeting will be held on Feb. 27.

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