Why Is Borough Limiting On-Street Parking Near Middle School?
Congestion concerns spur changes to on-street parking on Dunbar Street.
Welcome to "You Ask … Patch Answers," the weekly column for Chathamites looking for solutions to community problems or issues.
One reader asked:
Why is the borough considering limiting the three hour parking rule near the middle school?
On-street parking near Chatham Middle School effects the residents of the neighborhood, especially of Dunbar Street, Martin Place and Vincent Street. Residents have spoken up at meetings of the Borough Council, the Traffic Safety Commission meetings and the Planning Board saying that the current traffic situation creates a danger to middle school students and the children of the neighborhood.
When Shehadi Rugs & Carpets relocated from their location at 400 Main St., owner John Shehadi made internal modifications to the building to accommodate four separate businesses. Currently those businesses include a law firm and Amdega, a high-end conservatory company. According to Borough Engineer Vincent J. DeNave, an art guild is also currently looking at renting space in the building but no tenants for the remaining two spaces has been decided on.
Dr. John Franzese operates a medical practice at 396 Main St. in a building which, DeNave said, "has no parking, has never had any parking, and has operated for a very long time as a doctor's office." The demands of his practice require an average of eight cars at a time, four for the employees of the practice, including Franzese, and four for patients. Many of these cars park in the three-hour parking spaces in Dunbar Street, creating congestion for traffic in the neighborhood and on Main Street.
"You have cars parked on both sides of the street," DeNave said. "If you've got someone pulling off of Main Street and someone coming up [Dunbar toward Main Street], there's not enough room for another car to pass. … You can't accommodate two-way traffic when you've got parked cars on both sides."
To alleviate some of the congestion, the Borough Council will contemplate eliminating on-street parking on one side of Dunbar Street entirely (Council President said it would likely be the western side of Dunbar Street) and shortening on-street parking in the eastern side from three hours to 90 minutes.
DeNave discussed leasing parking spaces from the King's supermarket, the HSBC Bank and the TD Bank along Main Street. While none of the businesses have agreed to lease parking, DeNave said that none of the businesses objected to having employees f the doctor's office park there.
Parking at other businesses creates a solution for the employees of the medical practice, but Franzese said many of his patients are elderly and cannot park very far from the office. DeNave said he sent a letter to the New Jersey Department of Transportation to explore the possibility of creating a few spaces of Main Street parking near the doctor's office. By creating parking closer to Main Street, DeNave said it might be possible to keep parked cars from encroaching further into the residential neighborhoods.
Borough Council President Jim Collander said there was a greater concern of escalating traffic congestion in the neighborhood threatening to move deeper into residential neighborhoods north of Main Street. By addressing the symptoms of approving businesses without adequate parking and not the root cause, Collander said the parked cars would ""just ooze into another place. They don't go away."
Borough Police Chief Philip J. Crosson, Jr. and Lt. Brian K. Gibbons also told the council that 90 minute parking in the neighborhood would be difficult to patrol and enforce.
Shehadi met with residents after a Planning Board meeting in August and agreed to search for tenants who would not create large amounts of traffic for the neighborhood, in an effort to keep the traffic problem from growing worse. The concern now, said council members and residents who spoke at the council meeting, is to decrease traffic along Dunbar Street, Martin Place and Vincent Street without, "just [kicking] the can down the street," as David Richards of Martin Place said in August.