The Chatham Borough Council is looking at parking permits and coupon books as potential solutions to the municipality's overnight parking problem.
Councilman Len Resto said, during the council’s Sept. 10 meeting, that the borough is looking for ways to balance the parking needs of Chatham while keeping the current “feel of Chatham,” enforced by an ordinance that does not allow street parking from 2 to 6 a.m.
“We don’t want Chatham to have an urban feel, like Hoboken or Jersey City,” Resto said. “But we want to grant space to those residents who have legitimate parking issues.”
Unlike 30 years ago when there might have been only one car per household, Resto said, many borough residents have up to four cars per house, while homes have space for only one or two cars at most. This forces residents to park cars out into the street or to past driveways onto parts of sidewalks, within pedestrian right-of-ways.
“I had a neighbor at one point with two Hummers that didn’t fit in the driveway,” he said. “One stuck out into the sidewalk, so people had to walk in the street.”
Resto explained that the Morris County dispatch receives, on average, 50 calls per day requesting overnight on-street parking in Chatham Borough. More than 100 cars are sometimes parked on the streets overnight on weekends.
Matters are made worse, he said, when students come home from college for the summer or visitors stay with residents for a weekend.
Police Lt. Brian Gibbons – part of a small committee to discuss this issue, along with Resto, Councilman Gerald Helfrich and Chief Philip Crosson – said the bulk of the calls they receive are the result of construction issues, such as containers being located in a residential driveway.
Gibbons said permits, which could be made available on both an annual and temporary basis, would go a long way in reducing those calls.
Resto said annual permits would be issued based on need, would have to be color-coded so as to not be confused with train station permits and would hang from cars’ rearview mirrors. He said temporary permits would also be available but that the term of the permit would need to be determined.
“We thought two weeks or less,” he said, “but others might see it differently.”
The committee’s other suggestion was for the borough to sell annual parking coupon books that residents could use on an as-needed basis. The coupon permits would also be hung from the rearview mirror but with the date written in.
Before the council acts, however, it will create an ad hoc citizen advisory committee to help develop one of the suggestions or come up with another solution.
Resto said the advisory committee’s main goal will be to help develop criteria, such as what constitutes need and what streets should not allow overnight parking at all.
“If you drive up Lafayette Avenue between Watchung [Avenue] and Main [Street] and cars are parked on both sides, it gets narrow,” Resto said. “Then it’s a game of chicken to see which car is going to come first and which is going to go last.”
To ensure the success of any as-needed solutions, Council President Jim Lonergan said it is important to make the process a challenge so that residents won’t just park on the street because they can.
Crosson agreed, saying the “flood gates are already open.”
“We rarely deny anyone [overnight parking],” Crosson said. “On nights when we get 100 calls, 100 people get permission.
“Permits would leave a handful of calls for emergencies.”